Jpn. J. Pharmacol. 86 (2), 137-158 (2001)

Estrogen and Cerebrovascular Physiology and Pathophysiology

Dale A. Pelligrino* and Elena Galea

Neuroanesthesia Research Laboratory, University of Illinois at Chicago, Chicago, IL 60607, USA

*Corresponding author. FAX: +1-815-333-1493, E-mail:

Abstract: Numerous studies have uncovered a wide variety of estrogen effects with apparent cardiovascular benefits, the most recognized ones being vasodilation, anti-atherogenesis, diminished post-ischemic inflammation and anti-oxidant effects. This article provides an overview of the influence of estrogen on the cerebral vasculature, under physiologic and pathophysiologic conditions, and covers both acute and chronic effects. The discussion is primarily focused on the vasodilatory and anti-inflammatory actions of estrogen, since those particular estrogen influences have received the greatest attention in studies published to date. With respect to vasodilation, although some consideration is given to the role of other vasodilating mechanisms and factors, the emphasis is mostly placed on the endothelial isoform of nitric oxide synthase, eNOS, which has emerged as a clear target of estrogen. Some consideration is given to recent findings that suggest that estrogen can stimulate eNOS activity by decreasing the expression of the eNOS inhibitor caveolin-1. With regard to the ability of estrogen to counteract inflammation, potential mechanisms by which estrogen limits the post-ischemic leukocyte adhesion, and the expression of the inducible NOS, are discussed.

Keywords: Brain, Caveolin, Estrogen receptor, Inflammation, Leukocyte adhesion, Nitric oxide
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