BioScience Trends. 2021;15(6):353-364. (DOI: 10.5582/bst.2021.01320)

Effect of dehydroepiandrosterone on atherosclerosis in postmenopausal women

Zhang SW, Zhou J, Li LJ, Pan XY, Lin J, Li CY, Leung WT, Wang L


In China, cardiovascular disease (CVD) has surpassed malignant tumours to become the disease with the highest mortality rate, and atherosclerosis (AS) is an important pathological cause of CVD. Dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) is the most abundant steroid hormone in circulating human blood and is a precursor of estrogen and androgen. DHEA is converted into a series of sex hormones in local peripheral tissues where its acts physiologically. DHEA also acts therapeutically, thereby avoiding the adverse systemic reactions to sex hormones. DHEA inhibits AS, thus inhibiting the development of CVD, and it improves the prognosis for CVD. The incidence of CVD in postmenopausal women is substantially higher than that in premenopausal women, and that incidence is believed to be related to a decrease in ovarian function. The current review analyzes the mechanisms of postmenopausal women's susceptibility to AS. They tend to have dyslipidemia, and their vascular smooth muscle cells (VSMCs) proliferate and migrate more. In addition, oxidative stress and the inflammatory response of endothelial cells (ECs) are more serious in postmenopausal women. This review also discusses how DHEA combats AS by countering these mechanisms, which include regulating the blood lipid status, protecting ECs (including coping with oxidative stress and inflammatory reactions of the vascular endothelium, inhibiting apoptosis of ECs, and inducing NO production) and inhibiting the proliferation and migration of VSMCs. As a result, DHEA has great value in preventing AS and inhibiting its progression in postmenopausal women.

KEYWORDS: dehydroepiandrosterone, atherosclerosis, postmenopause, vascular smooth muscle cells, endothelial cells, blood lipid

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