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Jin Bai, Thomas J Lechuga, Joshua Makhoul, Hao Yan, Carol Major, Afshan Hameed, and Dong-bao Chen

Elevated endogenous estrogens stimulate human uterine artery endothelial cell (hUAEC) hydrogen sulfide (H2S) production by selectively upregulating the expression of H2S synthesizing enzyme cystathionine β-synthase (CBS), but the underlying mechanisms are underdetermined. We hypothesized that CBS transcription mediates estrogen-stimulated pregnancy-dependent hUAEC H2S production. Estradiol-17β (E2β) stimulated CBS but not cystathionine γ-lyase (CSE) expression in pregnant human uterine artery ex vivo, which was attenuated by the estrogen receptor (ER) antagonist ICI 182,780. E2β stimulated CBS mRNA/protein and H2S production in primary hUAEC from nonpregnant and pregnant women, but with greater responses in pregnant state; all were blocked by ICI 182,780. Human CBS promoter contains multiple estrogen-responsive elements (EREs), including one ERE preferentially binding ERα (αERE) and three EREs preferentially binding ERβ (βERE), and one full ERE (α/βERE) and one half ERE (½α/βERE) binding both ERα and ERβ. Luciferase assays using reporter genes driven by human CBS promoter with a series of 5′-deletions identified the α/βEREs binding both ERα and ERβ (α/βERE and ½α/βERE) to be important for baseline and E2β-stimulated CBS promoter activation. E2β stimulated ERα/ERβ heterodimerization by recruiting ERα to α/βEREs and βERE, and ERβ to βERE, α/βEREs, and αERE. ERα or ERβ agonist alone trans-activated CBS promoter, stimulated CBS mRNA/protein and H2S production to levels comparable to that of E2β-stimulated, while ERα or ERβ antagonist alone abrogated E2β-stimulated responses. E2β did not change human CSE promoter activity and CSE mRNA/protein in hUAEC. Altogether, estrogen-stimulated pregnancy-dependent hUAEC H2S production occurs by selectively upregulating CBS expression via ERα/ERβ-directed gene transcription.