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Effect of 17-beta estradiol on pre-existing atherosclerotic lesions: role of the endothelium

, : Effect of 17-beta estradiol on pre-existing atherosclerotic lesions: role of the endothelium. Atherosclerosis 147(1): 123-132

The atheroprotective effects of estrogen during the process of atherogenesis is well documented, whereas limited information is available about the effect of estrogen on pre-existing atherosclerotic lesions. After bilateral ovariectomy, 24 New Zealand White rabbits were randomized into three groups of eight animals each and subsequently fed a 0.5% cholesterol diet. In group I, the vessels were excised at day 84, whereas in group II, the cholesterol diet was continued for a total of 168 days. In group III, the animals were first fed with a cholesterol diet for 84 days; in the second phase of the experiment, the cholesterol diet was continued for a further 84 days with a combined estrogen treatment (1 mg estradiol valerate per kg body weight per week intramuscularly). At the end of the experiment, the proximal aortic arch, right carotid artery, thoracical aorta and abdominal aorta of each animal were excised and prepared for histological and immunohistological examination. By day 168, morphometrical analysis displayed a significantly lower plaque development under estrogen therapy in the carotid artery (0.08+/-0.18 mm(2) vs. 0.60+/-0.39 mm(2)), the thoracic aorta (0.56+/-0.94 mm(2) vs. 3.63+/-2.06 mm(2)), and in the abdominal aorta (0.55+/-0.70 mm(2) vs. 1.71+/-1.05 mm(2)) in comparison with the corresponding 168 day control group. However, estrogen treatment has failed to reduce further atherosclerotic plaque development in the aortic arch (9.42+/-1.79 mm(2) vs. 11. 64+/-3.29 mm(2)). Immunohistological detection of the 'anti-human factor VIII related antigen', i.e. the 'von Willebrand factor' (vWF), showed a significantly lower number of luminal cells positive for vWF in the aortic arch in the 84-day cholesterol group, compared with the corresponding controls of normocholesterolemic rabbits (65. 9+/-12.4% vs. 83.1+/-6.2%; P<0.05). Estradiol was able to inhibit the further progression of atherosclerosis when moderate vessel wall alterations were present, whereas pre-existing severe atherosclerosis was associated with a failure of the anti-atherosclerotic estrogen action. As suggested by the in situ detection of vWF as a morphological marker for endothelial cells, an intact endothelial layer might play an important role in mediating the beneficial effect of estrogen in the process of atherosclerosis.


PMID: 10525133

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