Estrogen administration results in increased release of the oxytocin (OT) prohormone reflected by increases in oxytocin intermediate peptide (OT Int) in both animal models and humans, and sequential treatment of ovariectomized rats with estrogen/progesterone then progesterone withdrawal leads to increased hypothalamic OT mRNA. Blood pressure (BP) reductions have been related to increased exogenous and endogenous OT in rats and to higher endogenous OT activity in premenopausal women, but not previously in postmenopausal women. Thus, we used plasma obtained at rest and during a speech stressor from 54 postmenopausal women who participated in a 6-month randomized trial of oral conjugated estrogens vs. placebo to examine effects of estrogen replacement therapy (ERT) on plasma OT and OT Int levels and their relationships to changes in BP during the trial. ERT alone and with progesterone (but not placebo) led to significant increases in plasma levels of OT Int, but no change in plasma OT levels. Women showing greater increases in OT Int during treatment showed greater decreases in BP and total vascular resistance during a series of behavioral stressors compared to women with moderate or no increases in OT Int, even after controlling for effects related to treatment condition or to changes in plasma estradiol. The findings suggest that enhanced oxytocinergic activity may contribute to BP decreases associated with ERT in more responsive postmenopausal women.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Endocrine and Autonomic Systems
- Behavioral Neuroscience