Sex differences in Ca2+-dependent signalling and homoeostasis in the vasculature of hypertensive rats are well characterized. However, sex-related differences in SOCE (store-operated Ca2+ entry) have been minimally investigated. We hypothesized that vascular protection in females, compared with males, reflects decreased Ca2+ mobilization due to diminished activation of Orai1/STIM1 (stromal interaction molecule 1). In addition, we investigated whether ovariectomy in females affects the activation of the Orai1/STIM1 pathway. Endothelium-denuded aortic rings from male and female SHRSP (stroke-prone spontaneously hypertensive rats) and WKY (Wistar–Kyoto) rats and from OVX (ovariectomized) or sham female SHRSP and WKY rats were used to functionally evaluate Ca2+ influx-induced contractions. Compared with females, aorta from male SHRSP displayed: (i) increased contraction during the Ca2+-loading period; (ii) similar transient contraction during Ca2+ release from the intracellular stores; (iii) increased activation of STIM1 and Orai1, as shown by the blockade of STIM1 and Orai1 with neutralizing antibodies, which reversed the sex differences in contraction during the Ca2+-loading period; and (iv) increased expression of STIM1 and Orai1. Additionally, we found that aortas from OVX-SHRSP showed increased contraction during the Ca2+-loading period and increased Orai1 expression, but no changes in the SR (sarcoplasmic reticulum)-buffering capacity or STIM1 expression. These findings suggest that augmented activation of STIM1/Orai1 in aortas from male SHRSP represents a mechanism that contributes to sex-related impaired control of intracellular Ca2+ levels. Furthermore, female sex hormones may negatively modulate the STIM/Orai1 pathway, contributing to vascular protection observed in female rats.

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