Excessive inflammation and the pyroptosis of vascular endothelial cells caused by estrogen deficiency is one cause of atherosclerosis in post-menopausal women. Because autophagy is highly regulated by estrogen, we hypothesized that estrogen can reduce vascular endothelial cell pyroptosis through estrogen receptor alpha (ERα)-mediated activation of autophagy to improve atherosclerosis in post-menopausal stage. Aortic samples from pro-menopausal and post-menopausal women with ascending aortic arteriosclerosis were analyzed, and bilateral ovariectomized (OVX) female ApoE-/- mice and homocysteine (Hcy)-treated HUVECs were used to analyze the effect of estrogen supplementation therapy. The aortic endothelium showed a decrease in ERα expression and autophagy, but presented an increase in inflammation and pyroptosis in female post-menopausal patients. Estrogen treatment accelerated autophagy and ameliorated cell pyroptosis in the cardiac aortas of OVX ApoE-/- mice and Hcy-treated HUVECs. Estrogen had therapeutic effect on atherosclerosis and improved the symptoms associated with lipid metabolism disorders in OVX ApoE-/- mice. Inhibition and silencing of ERα led to a reduction in the autophagy promoting ability of estrogen and aggravated pyroptosis. Moreover, the inhibition of autophagy promoted pyroptosis and abolished the protective effect of estrogen, but had no influence on ERα expression. Thus, the results of the present study demonstrated that post-menopausal women present decreased autophagy and ERα expression and excessive damage to the ascending aorta. In addition, in vitro and in vivo assay results demonstrated that estrogen prevents atherosclerosis by upregulating ERα expression and subsequently induces autophagy to reduce inflammation and pyroptosis. © 2020 The Authors. Published by Elsevier B.V. on behalf of Cairo University.