Experimental studies showed that 17β-estradiol (E2) and activated estrogen receptors (ER) protect the heart from ischemic injury. However, the underlying molecular mechanisms are not well understood. To investigate the role of ER-alpha (ERα) in cardiomyocytes in the setting of myocardial ischemia, we generated transgenic mice with cardiomyocyte-specific overexpression of ERα (ERα-OE) and subjected them to myocardial infarction (MI). At the basal level, female and male ERα-OE mice showed increased left ventricular (LV) mass and LV volume. Two weeks after MI, LV volume was significantly increased and LV wall thickness decreased in female and male WT-mice and male ERα-OE, but not in female ERα-OE mice. ERα-OE enhanced expression of angiogenesis and lymphangiogenesis markers (VEGF, LYVE-1), and neovascularization in the peri-infarct area in both sexes. However, attenuated level of fibrosis and higher phosphorylation of JNK signaling pathway could be detected in only female ERα-OE after MI. In conclusion, this study indicates that ERα protects female mouse cardiomyocytes from the sequelae of ischemia through induction of neovascularization in a paracrine fashion and impaired fibrosis, which together may contribute to the attenuation of the adverse consequence of cardiac remodeling.
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