The atheroprotective effects of estrogen are well established and the presence of an estrogen receptor in vascular tissues has recently been reported. Therefore, we investigated the localization of the estrogen- producing enzyme aromatase in vascular tissues to assess the possible contribution of endocrine, paracrine, and autocrine modes of action. Aromatase was found in human vascular smooth muscle cells (SMCs) but not in endothelial cells on in situ hybridization. These observations were further supported by quantitative analysis of aromatase mRNA and the activity in 15 human vascular specimens. Only trace levels of expression were detected in the 3 infants examined, whereas 0.0088 to 0.0806 amol/μg RNA of aromatase mRNA and 12.9 to 122.3 fmol · h-1 · mg-1 protein of the activity were detected in 12 of the adult individuals. The switching of tissue-specific exon 1 of the human aromatase gene was also observed in some cases. Aromatase was found to be expressed only in cultured SMCs and not in cultured endothelial cells of human aorta and pulmonary artery and to be regulated through dexamethasone and the signaling pathways of protein kinase A and C. Study results revealed the localized expression of aromatase in vascular SMCs, which indicated a possible direct action of locally produced estrogen in an autocrine or paracrine manner, with possible cross talk between smooth muscle and endothelial cells.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine