P-glycoprotein (Pgp), a multiple drug resistance transporter expressed by vascular endothelial cells, is a key component of the blood-brain barrier and has been shown to increase after inflammation. The nonaromatizable androgen, dihydrotestosterone (DHT), decreases inflammatory markers in vascular smooth muscle cells, independent of androgen receptor (AR) stimulation. The principal metabolite of DHT, 5α-androstane-3β,17β-diol (3β-diol), activates estrogen receptor (ER)β and similarly decreases inflammatory markers in vascular cells. Therefore, we tested the hypothesis that either DHT or 3β-diol decrease cytokine-induced proinflammatory mediators, vascular cell adhesion molecule-1 (VCAM-1) and cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2), to regulate Pgp expression in male primary human brain microvascular endothelial cells (HBMECs). Using RT-qPCR, the mRNAs for AR, ERα, and ERβ and steroid metabolizing enzymes necessary for DHT conversion to 3β-diol were detected in male HBMECs demonstrating that the enzymes and receptors for production of and responsiveness to 3β-diol are present. Western analysis showed that 3β-diol reduced COX-2 and Pgp expression; the effect on Pgp was inhibited by the ER antagonist, ICI-182,780. IL-1β-caused an increase in COX-2 and VCAM-1 that was reduced by either DHT or 3β-diol. 3β-diol also decreased cytokine-induced Pgp expression. ICI-182,780 blocked the effect of 3β-diol on COX-2 and VCAM-1, but not Pgp expression. Therefore, in cytokine-stimulated male HBMECs, the effect of 3β-diol on proinflammatory mediator expression is ER dependent, whereas its effect on Pgp expression is ER independent. These studies suggest a novel role of 3β-diol in regulating blood-brain barrier function and support the concept that 3β-diol can be protective against proinflammatory mediator stimulation.
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