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Normal pregnancy is associated with dramatic increases in uterine blood flow to facilitate the bidirectional maternal-fetal exchanges of respiratory gases and to provide sole nutrient support for fetal growth and survival. The mechanism(s) underlying pregnancy-associated uterine vasodilation remain incompletely understood, but this is associated with elevated estrogens, which stimulate specific estrogen receptor (ER)-dependent vasodilator production in the uterine artery (UA). The classical ERs (ERα and ERβ) and the plasma-bound G protein-coupled ER (GPR30/GPER) are expressed in UA endothelial cells and smooth muscle cells, mediating the vasodilatory effects of estrogens through genomic and/or nongenomic pathways that are likely epigenetically modified. The activation of these three ERs by estrogens enhances the endothelial production of nitric oxide (NO), which has been shown to play a key role in uterine vasodilation during pregnancy. However, the local blockade of NO biosynthesis only partially attenuates estrogen-induced and pregnancy-associated uterine vasodilation, suggesting that mechanisms other than NO exist to mediate uterine vasodilation. In this review, we summarize the literature on the role of NO in ER-mediated mechanisms controlling estrogen-induced and pregnancy-associated uterine vasodilation and our recent work on a "new" UA vasodilator hydrogen sulfide (H2S) that has dramatically changed our view of how estrogens regulate uterine vasodilation in pregnancy.


Jin Bai, Qian-Rong Qi, Yan Li, Robert Day, Josh Makhoul, Ronald R Magness, Dong-Bao Chen. Estrogen Receptors and Estrogen-Induced Uterine Vasodilation in Pregnancy. International journal of molecular sciences. 2020 Jun 18;21(12)

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PMID: 32570961

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