The Effect of 17β-estradiol on Cholesterol Content in Human Macrophages is Influenced by the Lipoprotein Milieu

Document Type

Article - Open Access

Publication Title

Journal of Molecular Endocrinology


Society for Endocrinology

Publication Date


Abstract/ Summary

Estrogen and testosterone are thought to modulate coronary heart disease (CHD) risk. To examine how these hormones affect human macrophage cholesterol transport, a key factor in atherogenesis, we obtained monocytes from healthy male and postmenopausal female donors (age 50–70 years). Cells were allowed to differentiate in autologous serum. Human monocyte-derived macrophages (HMDMs) were exposed to estrogen, testosterone, or vehicle, during differentiation. Cells were cholesterol enriched with oxidized low-density lipoprotein (oxLDL) in the presence of treatment. Cell cholesterol mass, efflux, and the expression of proteins involved in HMDM cholesterol transport were examined. Estrogen significantly reduced cholesteryl ester (CE) content in both female and male HMDMs while having no measurable effect on cholesterol efflux. Testosterone did not affect cholesterol content or efflux. Both hormones significantly but modestly affected the gene expression of several proteins involved in HMDM transport, yet these effects did not translate into significant changes in protein expression. In THP-1 macrophages, the effect of estrogen on CE content was more potent in unloaded macrophages and was estrogen receptor dependent. A trend for a reduction in nonoxLDL uptake by estrogen was observed and was also found to be dependent upon estrogen receptor activation. Our data indicate that estrogen, but not testosterone, reduces CE accumulation in HMDMs obtained from a CHD age relevant population, independent of changes in the expression of proteins important to macrophage cholesterol transport. In THP-1 cells, this effect is reduced in the presence of oxLDL, indicating that a pro-atherogenic lipoprotein milieu is an important variable in sex hormone modulation of CHD.