Author(s): Krause DN, Duckles SP, Pelligrino DA
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Abstract The cerebral vasculature is a target tissue for sex steroid hormones. Estrogens, androgens, and progestins all influence the function and pathophysiology of the cerebral circulation. Estrogen decreases cerebral vascular tone and increases cerebral blood flow by enhancing endothelial-derived nitric oxide and prostacyclin pathways. Testosterone has opposite effects, increasing cerebral artery tone. Cerebrovascular inflammation is suppressed by estrogen but increased by testosterone and progesterone. Evidence suggests that sex steroids also modulate blood-brain barrier permeability. Estrogen has important protective effects on cerebral endothelial cells by increasing mitochondrial efficiency, decreasing free radical production, promoting cell survival, and stimulating angiogenesis. Although much has been learned regarding hormonal effects on brain blood vessels, most studies involve young, healthy animals. It is becoming apparent that hormonal effects may be modified by aging or disease states such as diabetes. Furthermore, effects of testosterone are complicated because this steroid is also converted to estrogen, systemically and possibly within the vessels themselves. Elucidating the impact of sex steroids on the cerebral vasculature is important for understanding male-female differences in stroke and conditions such as menstrual migraine and preeclampsia-related cerebral edema in pregnancy. Cerebrovascular effects of sex steroids also need to be considered in untangling current controversies regarding consequences of hormone replacement therapies and steroid abuse.
This article was published in J Appl Physiol (1985)
and referenced in Journal of Neuroinfectious Diseases