Date Available


Year of Publication


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation




Pharmacology and Nutritional Sciences

First Advisor

Dr. Lisa Cassis


Abdominal aortic aneurysms (AAAs), a permanent dilation in the abdominal region of the aorta, is a highly sexually dimorphic disease. AAAs prevalence is ranging from 4-10 fold higher in males than females. Defining the mechanistic basis for reduced (in females) or increased (in males) AAA formation and progression may uncover potential therapeutic targets. The majority of studies examining sexual dimorphism focus on the role of sex hormones. However, genes residing on sex chromosomes, in addition to sex hormones, may contribute to sexual dimorphism of AAAs. For example, the X chromosome contains about 5% of the whole genome, but the role of sex chromosomes genes to sexual dimorphism of cardiovascular diseases such as AAAs is largely unknown. The purpose of this study was to determine the role of sex chromosomes as mediators of sex differences for angiotensin II (AngII)-induced AAAs in hypercholesterolemic mice.

We used the four core genotype murine model, which enables the creation of phenotypically normal male and female mice with an XX versus XY sex chromosome complement, to test the hypothesis that an XY sex chromosome complement promotes AngII-induced AAAs. Transgenic male mice expressing the Sry gene on an autosome, but not on the Y-chromosome, were bred to female low-density lipoprotein receptor deficient mice to create male and female mice with an XX or an XY sex chromosome complement.

In females, an XY sex chromosome complement doubled the incidence and markedly increased the severity of AngII-induced AAAs. To define mechanisms, we examined gene expression patterns in abdominal aortas and demonstrated elevated expression of inflammatory genes that were linked to increased MMP activity and oxidative stress in aortas from XY females. Moreover, administration of testosterone to XY females, to mimic males, resulted in a striking level of aneurysm rupture.

In males, transcriptional profiling of abdominal aortas revealed 450 genes that were influenced by sex chromosomes. Infusion of AngII to XY males resulted in diffuse pathology along the length of the aorta, while XX males developed focal AAAs, with pathology reduced by orchiectomy in both genotypes. Thoracic aortas of XY males exhibited adventitial thickening which was not exist in thoracic aortas from XX males. Following a prolonged period (3 months) of AngII infusions XY males had AAAs with expanded aortic walls, while XX males had thin walled dilated AAAs.

In summary, our findings demonstrate a remarkable effect of sex chromosome complement to regulate aortic vasculature and disease development. Aside from demonstrating mechanisms of sexual dimorphism of aortic diseases, these findings indicate that chronic sex hormone therapy in the aging and transgender population may have cardiovascular ramifications. Moreover, identification of targets influenced by sex chromosomes and/or sex hormones in a manner that predicts disease development may identify sex-specific approaches to cardiovascular therapy.

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)