Cardiovascular diseases remain the leading cause of death in the United States. Two factors associated with a decreased risk of developing cardiovascular disease are elevated HDL levels and sex — specifically, a decreased risk is found in premenopausal women. HDL and estrogen stimulate eNOS and the production of nitric oxide, which has numerous protective effects in the vascular system including vasodilation, antiadhesion, and anti-inflammatory effects. We tested the hypothesis that HDL binds to its receptor, scavenger receptor class B type I (SR-BI), and delivers estrogen to eNOS, thereby stimulating the enzyme. HDL isolated from women stimulated eNOS, whereas HDL isolated from men had minimal activity. Studies with ovariectomized and ovariectomized/estrogen replacement mouse models demonstrated that HDL-associated estradiol stimulation of eNOS is SR-BI dependent. Furthermore, female HDL, but not male HDL, promoted the relaxation of muscle strips isolated from C57BL/6 mice but not SR-BI null mice. Finally, HDL isolated from premenopausal women or postmenopausal women receiving estradiol replacement therapy stimulated eNOS, whereas HDL isolated from postmenopausal women did not stimulate eNOS. We conclude that HDL-associated estrodial is capable of the stimulating eNOS. These studies establish a new paradigm for examining the cardiovascular effects of HDL and estrogen.

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Published in The Journal of Clinical Investigation, v.111, no. 10.

© 2003 The American Society for Clinical Investigation

The copyright holder has granted the permission for posting the article here.

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This work was supported, in part, by a COBRE grant (P20 RR15592) from the National Center for Research Resources at NIH and by grants from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (HL62844 and HL64056 to E.J. Smart and HL67284 to M. Gong).