Previous studies have shown that female offspring are resistant to fetal stress-induced programming of ischemic-sensitive phenotype in the heart; however, the mechanisms responsible remain unclear. The present study tested the hypothesis that estrogen plays a role in protecting females in fetal programming of increased heart vulnerability. Pregnant rats were divided into normoxic and hypoxic (10.5% O2 from Day 15 to 21 of gestation) groups. Ovariectomy (OVX) and estrogen (E2) replacement were performed in 8-wk-old female offspring. Hearts of 4-mo-old females were subjected to ischemia and reperfusion injury in a Langendorff preparation. OVX significantly decreased postischemic recovery of left ventricular function and increased myocardial infarction, and no difference was observed between normoxic and hypoxic groups. The effect of OVX was rescued by E2 replacement. OVX decreased the binding of glucocorticoid receptor (GR) to glucocorticoid response elements at angiotensin II type 1 (Agtr1) and type 2 (Agtr2) receptor promoters, resulting in a decrease in Agtr1 and an increase in Agtr2 in the heart. Additionally, OVX decreased estrogen receptor (ER) expression in the heart and inhibited ER/GR interaction in binding to glucocorticoid response elements at the promoters. Consistent with the changes in Agtrs, OVX significantly decreased Prkce abundance in the heart. These OVX-induced changes were abrogated by E2 replacement. The results indicate that estrogen is not directly responsible for the sex dimorphism in fetal programming of heart ischemic vulnerability but suggest a novel mechanism of estrogen in regulating cardiac Agtr1/Agtr2 expression patterns and protecting female hearts against ischemia and reperfusion injury.
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Vol. 93 • No. 1