The serotonin transporter promotes a pathological estrogen metabolic pathway in pulmonary hypertension via cytochrome P450 1B1

PVRI Member Authors: Mandy MacLean


Pulmonary arterial hypertension (PAH) is a devastating vasculopathy that predominates in women and has been associated with dysregulated estrogen and serotonin signaling. Overexpression of the serotonin transporter (SERT+) in mice results in an estrogen-dependent development of pulmonary hypertension (PH). Estrogen metabolism by cytochrome P450 1B1 (CYP1B1) contributes to the pathogenesis of PAH, and serotonin can increase CYP1B1 expression in human pulmonary arterial smooth muscle cells (hPASMCs). We hypothesized that an increase in intracellular serotonin via increased SERT expression may dysregulate estrogen metabolism via CYP1B1 to facilitate PAH. Consistent with this hypothesis, we found elevated lung CYP1B1 protein expression in female SERT+ mice accompanied by PH, which was attenuated by the CYP1B1 inhibitor 2,3′,4,5′-tetramethoxystilbene (TMS). Lungs from female SERT+ mice demonstrated an increase in oxidative stress that was marked by the expression of 8-hydroxyguanosine; however, this was unaffected by CYP1B1 inhibition. SERT expression was increased in monocrotaline-induced PH in female rats; however, TMS did not reverse PH in monocrotaline-treated rats but prolonged survival. Stimulation of hPASMCs with the CYP1B1 metabolite 16α-hydroxyestrone increased cellular proliferation, which was attenuated by an inhibitor (MPP) of estrogen receptor alpha (ERα) and a specific ERα antibody. Thus, increased intracellular serotonin caused by increased SERT expression may contribute to PAH pathobiology by dysregulation of estrogen metabolic pathways via increased CYP1B1 activity. This promotes PASMC proliferation by the formation of pathogenic metabolites of estrogen that mediate their effects via ERα. Our studies indicate that targeting this pathway in PAH may provide a promising antiproliferative therapeutic strategy.

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Animal Models
Cell Biochemistry and Metabolism, Differentiation and Proliferation, Structure and Function, interactions
Gender Differences in Pulmonary Vascular Disease
Oxidative stress and Oxidants/Antioxidants and Free Radicals
Pathology and Pathophysiology
Pulmonary Arterial Hypertension
Pulmonary Hypertension
Women's Health


Anne Katrine Z. Johansen, Afshan Dean, Ian Morecroft, Katie Hood, Margaret Nilsen, Lynn Loughlin, Aikaterini Anagnostopoulou, Rhian M. Touyz, Kevin White, Margaret R. MacLean

Published in:

Pulmonary Circulation Vol 6: No 1 cover image

March 2016

Pulmonary Circulation Vol 6: No 1

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