Testosterone Alters Maternal Vascular Adaptations
Role of the Endothelial NO System
Sex steroid hormones estradiol and progesterone play an important role in vascular adaptations during pregnancy. However, little is known about the role of androgens. Plasma testosterone (T) levels are elevated in preeclampsia, mothers with polycystic ovary, and pregnant African American women, who have endothelial dysfunction and develop gestational hypertension. We tested whether increased T alters vascular adaptations during pregnancy and whether these alterations depend on endothelium-derived factors, such as prostacyclin, endothelium-derived hyperpolarizing factor, and NO. Pregnant Sprague Dawley rats were injected with vehicle (n=12) or T propionate [0.5 mg/Kg per day from gestation day 15–19; n=12] to increase plasma T levels 2-fold, similar to that observed in preeclampsia. Telemetric blood pressures and endothelium-dependent vascular reactivity were assessed with wire-myograph system. Phospho-endothelial NO synthase and total endothelial NO synthase were examined in mesenteric arteries. Mean arterial pressures were significantly higher starting from gestation day19 until delivery in T-treated dams. Endothelium-dependent relaxation responses to acetylcholine were significantly lower in mesenteric arteries of T-treated dams (pD2 [−log EC50]=7.05±0.06; Emax=89.4±1.89) compared with controls (pD2=7.38±0.04; Emax=99.9±0.97). Further assessment of endothelial factors showed NO-mediated relaxations were blunted in T-treated mesenteric arteries (Emax=42.26±5.95) compared with controls (Emax=76.49±5.06); however, prostacyclin- and endothelium-derived hyperpolarizing factor-mediated relaxations were unaffected. Relaxation to sodium nitroprusside was unaffected with T-treatment. Phosphorylations of endothelial NO synthase at Ser1177 were decreased and at Thr495 increased in T-treated mesenteric arteries without changes in total endothelial NO synthase levels. In conclusion, increased maternal T, at concentrations relevant to abnormal clinical conditions, cause hypertension associated with blunting of NO-mediated vasodilation. T may induce the increased vascular resistance associated with pregnancy-induced hypertension.
- blood pressure
- endothelium-derived hyperpolarizing factor
- eNOS phosphorylation
- mesenteric arteries
- Received October 24, 2012.
- Revision received December 19, 2012.
- Accepted December 21, 2012.
- © 2013 American Heart Association, Inc.