Progesterone predisposes females to obesity-associated leptin-mediated endothelial dysfunction via upregulating endothelial mr (mineralocorticoid receptor) expression

Jessica L. Faulkner, Simone Kennard, Anne Cecile Huby, Galina Antonova, Qing Lu, Iris Z. Jaffe, Vijay S. Patel, David J.R. Fulton, Eric J. Belin De Chantemèle

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

33 Scopus citations


Compelling clinical evidence indicates that obesity and its associated metabolic abnormalities supersede the protective effects of female sex-hormones and predisposes premenopausal women to cardiovascular disease. The underlying mechanisms remain poorly defined; however, recent studies have implicated overactivation of the aldosterone-MR (mineralocorticoid receptor) axis as a cause of sex-specific cardiovascular risk in obese females. Experimental evidence indicates that the MR on endothelial cells contributes to obesity-associated, leptin-induced endothelial dysfunction in female experimental models, however, the vascular-specific mechanisms via which females are predisposed to heightened endothelial MR activation remain unknown. Therefore, we hypothesized that endogenous expression of endothelial MR is higher in females than males, which predisposes them to obesity-associated, leptin-mediated endothelial dysfunction. We found that endothelial MR expression is higher in blood vessels from female mice and humans compared with those of males, and further, that PrR (progesterone receptor) activation in endothelial cells is the driving mechanism for sex-dependent increases in endothelial MR expression in females. In addition, we show that genetic deletion of either the endothelial MR or PrR in female mice prevents leptin-induced endothelial dysfunction, providing direct evidence that interaction between the PrR and MR mediates obesity-associated endothelial impairment in females. Collectively, these novel findings suggest that progesterone drives sex-differences in endothelial MR expression and predisposes female mice to leptin-induced endothelial dysfunction, which indicates that MR antagonists may be a promising sex-specific therapy to reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases in obese premenopausal women.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)678-686
Number of pages9
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 1 2019


  • cardiovascular diseases
  • endothelial cells
  • leptin
  • obesity
  • progesterone
  • receptors, mineralocorticoid
  • sex characteristics

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Internal Medicine


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