Insights from the menstrual cycle in pulmonary arterial hypertension

Grayson L. Baird, Thomas Walsh, Jason Aliotta, Melissa Allahua, Ruth Andrew, Ghada Bourjeily, Alexander S. Brodsky, Nina Denver, Mark Dooner, Elizabeth O. Harrington, James R. Klinger, Margaret R. MacLean, Christopher J. Mullin, Mandy Pereira, Athena Poppas, Mary Whittenhall, Corey E. Ventetuolo

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Rationale: Sex hormones play a role in pulmonary arterial hypertension (PAH), but the menstrual cycle has never been studied. Objectives: We conducted a prospective observational study of eight women with stable PAH and 20 healthy controls over one cycle. Methods: Participants completed four study visits 1 week apart starting on the first day of menstruation. Relationships between sex hormones, hormone metabolites, and extracellular vesicle microRNA (miRNA) expression and clinical markers were compared with generalized linear mixed modeling. Results: Women with PAH had higher but less variable estradiol (E2) levels (P, 0.001) that tracked with 6-minute walk distance (P, 0.001), N-terminal prohormone of brain natriuretic peptide (P = 0.03) levels, and tricuspid annular plane systolic excursion (P, 0.01); the direction of these associations depended on menstrual phase. Dehydroepiandrosterone sulfate (DHEA-S) levels were lower in women with PAH (all visits, P, 0.001). In PAH, each 100-mg/dl increase in DHEA-S was associated with a 127-m increase in 6-minute walk distance (P, 0.001) and was moderated by the cardioprotective E2 metabolite 2-methoxyestrone (P, 0.001). As DHEA-S increased, N-terminal prohormone of brain natriuretic peptide levels decreased (P = 0.001). Expression of extracellular vesicle miRNAs-21, -29c, and -376a was higher in PAH, moderated by E2 and DHEA-S levels, and tracked with hormone-associated changes in clinical measures. Conclusions: Women with PAH have fluctuations in cardiopulmonary function during menstruation driven by E2 and DHEA-S. These hormones in turn influence transcription of extracellular vesicle miRNAs implicated in the pathobiology of pulmonary vascular disease and cancer.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)218-228
Number of pages11
JournalAnnals of the American Thoracic Society
Issue number2
Early online date4 Sep 2020
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2021


  • estradiol
  • DHEA
  • menstrual cycle
  • pulmonary hypertension
  • microRNA


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