PloS one

Alterations in adhesion molecules, pro-inflammatory cytokines and cell-derived microparticles contribute to intima-media thickness and symptoms in postmenopausal women.

PMID 25993480


Menopause, the cessation of menses, occurs with estrogens decline, low-grade inflammation, and impaired endothelial function, contributing to atherosclerotic risk. Intima-media thickness (IMT) is an early subclinical biomarker of atherosclerosis. Inflammation may have a role on symptoms: hot flashes, anxiety, and depressive mood, which also are related to endothelial dysfunction, increased IMT and cardiovascular risk. In this study we compared several inflammatory markers in early vs. late postmenopausal women and studied the association of IMT and symptoms with these markers in the full sample. In a cross-sectional design including 60 women (53.1 ± 4.4 years old) at early and late postmenopause, we evaluated the expression of CD62L, ICAM-1, PSGL-1, CD11b, CD11c, and IL-8R on PBMC by flow cytometry. Serum soluble ICAM-1, sVCAM-1, sCD62E, sCD62P, CXCL8, IL-1β, IL-6, and TNF-α levels were quantified by ELISA. Plasma levels of microparticles (MPs) were determined by FACS. Finally, carotid intima-media thickness (IMT) was measured by ultrasound. We observed that ICAM-1 expression by lymphocytes and serum sVCAM-1 levels were augmented at late postmenopause. Late postmenopause women with severe hot flashes had increased expression of CD62L and IL-8R on neutrophils. By multivariate analysis, the carotid IMT was strongly associated with membrane-bound TNF-α, CD11b expression, Annexin V(+) CD3(+) MPs, LPS-induced NO production, HDL-cholesterol and age. Depressive mood was associated negatively with PSGL-1 and positively with LPS-induced NO. Finally, Log(AMH) levels were associated with carotid IMT, IL-8R expression and time since menopause. IMT and depressive mood were the main clinical features related to vascular inflammation. Aging, hormonal changes and obesity were also related to endothelial dysfunction. These findings provide further evidence for a link between estrogen deficiency and low-grade inflammation in endothelial impairment in mature women.