Female gender affords relative protection from cardiovascular disease until the menopause. We report that estrogen acts on estrogen receptor subtype alpha to up-regulate the production of atheroprotective prostacyclin, PGI2, by activation of cyclooxygenase 2 (COX-2). This mechanism restrained both oxidant stress and platelet activation that contribute to atherogenesis in female mice. Deletion of the PGI2 receptor removed the atheroprotective effect of estrogen in ovariectomized female mice. This suggests that chronic treatment of patients with selective inhibitors of COX-2 could undermine protection from cardiovascular disease in premenopausal females.
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