Sex, gender, and sex hormones in pulmonary hypertension and right ventricular failure

James Hester, Corey Ventetuolo, Tim Lahm

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Pulmonary hypertension (PH) encompasses a syndrome of diseases that are characterized by elevated pulmonary artery pressure and pulmonary vascular remodeling and that frequently lead to right ventricular (RV) failure and death. Several types of PH exhibit sexually dimorphic features in disease penetrance, presentation, and progression. Most sexually dimorphic features in PH have been described in pulmonary arterial hypertension (PAH), a devastating and progressive pulmonary vasculopathy with a 3-year survival rate <60%. While patient registries show that women are more susceptible to development of PAH, female PAH patients display better RV function and increased survival compared to their male counterparts, a phenomenon referred to as the “estro-gen paradox” or “estrogen puzzle” of PAH. Recent advances in the field have demonstrated that multiple sex hormones, receptors, and metabolites play a role in the estrogen puzzle and that the effects of hormone signaling may be time and compartment specific. While the underlying physiological mechanisms are complex, unraveling the estrogen puzzle may reveal novel therapeutic strategies to treat and reverse the effects of PAH/PH. In this article, we (i) review PH classification and pathophysiology; (ii) discuss sex/gender differences observed in patients and animal models; (iii) review sex hormone synthesis and metabolism; (iv) review in detail the scientific literature of sex hormone signaling in PAH/PH, particularly estrogen-, testosterone-, progesterone-, and dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA)-mediated effects in the pulmonary vasculature and RV; (v) discuss hormone-independent variables contributing to sexually dimorphic disease presentation; and (vi) identify knowledge gaps and pathways forward.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)125-170
Number of pages46
JournalComprehensive Physiology
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2020

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Physiology (medical)

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