Dehydroepiandrosterone stimulates endothelial proliferation and angiogenesis through extracellular signal-regulated kinase 1/2-mediated mechanisms

Dongmin Liu*, Mary Iruthayanathan, Laurie L. Homan, Yiqiang Wang, Lingling Yang, Yao Wang, Joseph S. Dillon

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

82 Citations (Scopus)


Dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) activates a plasma membrane receptor on vascular endothelial cells and phosphorylates ERK 1/2. We hypothesize that ERK1/2-dependent vascular endothelial proliferation underlies part of the beneficial vascular effect of DHEA. DHEA (0.1-10 nM) activated ERK1/2 in bovine aortic endothelial cells (BAECs) by 15 min, causing nuclear translocation of phosphorylated ERK1/2 and phosphorylation of nuclear p90 ribosomal S6 kinase. ERK1/2 phosphorylation was dependent on plasma membrane-initiated activation of Gi/o proteins and the upstream MAPK kinase because the effect was seen with albumin-conjugated DHEA and was blocked by pertussis toxin or PD098059. A 15-min incubation of BAECs with 1 nM DHEA (or albumin-conjugated DHEA)increased endothelial proliferation by 30% at 24 h. This effect was not altered by inhibition of estrogen or androgen receptors or nitric oxide production. There was a similar effect of DHEA to increase endothelial migration. DHEA also increased the formation of primitive capillary tubes of BAECs in vitro in solubilized basement membrane. These rapid DHEA-induced effects were reversed by the inhibition of either Gi/o-proteins or ERK1/2. Additionally, DHEA enhanced angiogenesis in vivo in a chick embryo chorioallantoic membrane assay. These findings indicate that exposure to DHEA, at concentrations found in human blood, causes vascular endothelial proliferation by a plasma membrane-initiated activity that is Gi/o and ERK1/2 dependent. These data, along with previous findings, define an important vascular endothelial cell signaling pathway that is activated by DHEA and suggest that this steroid may play a role in vascular function.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)889-898
Number of pages10
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2008
Externally publishedYes


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