Rapid activation of nuclear factor κb by 17β-estradiol and selective estrogen receptor modulators: Pathways mediating cellular protection

James P. Stice, Fiona N. Mbai, Le Chen, Anne A Knowlton

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

24 Scopus citations


17β-Estradiol (E2) treatment activates a set of protective response that has been found to protect cells from injury and more importantly to significantly abate the injuries associated with trauma-hemorrhage in vivo. Rapid NF-κB activation has been found to be an important signaling step in E2-mediated protection in cell culture, in vivo ischemia, and trauma-hemorrhage. In the current study, we investigated the signaling cascades linking E2 signaling with NF-κB activation and the protective response and compared them with the effects of two selective estrogen receptor modulators (SERMs), raloxifene and tamoxifen. Two candidate pathways, mitogen-activated protein kinases and phosphatidylinositol-3-kinase (PI3K) were studied. Selective inhibitors were used to identify each pathway's contribution to NF-κB activation. Treatment of human coronary artery endothelial cells with E2 activated PI3K/Akt, p38, and JNK, all of which activated ERK1/2 followed by NF-κB activation. The combined activation of Akt, p38, and JNK was essential to activate NF-κB. The two SERMs activated PI3K and p38, which then phosphorylated ERK1/2 and activated NF-κB independent of the JNK pathway. Nuclear factor κB activation by these compounds protected cells from hypoxia/reoxygenation injury. However, E2, unlike either SERM, led to modest increases in apoptosis through the JNK pathway. Selective estrogen receptor modulator treatment led to increased expression of the protective proteins, Mn superoxide dismutase, and endothelial nitric oxide synthase, which was not seen with E2. These results provide new insight into the pathways activating NF-κB by E2 and SERMs and demonstrate that SERMs may have greater protective benefits than E2 in adult endothelial cells and potentially in vivo, as well.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)128-136
Number of pages9
Issue number2
StatePublished - Aug 2012


  • cellular protection
  • Estrogen
  • ischemia
  • NF-κB
  • trauma-hemorrhage

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Critical Care and Intensive Care Medicine
  • Emergency Medicine


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