The pre- and postnatal influence of hormones and neurotransmitters on sexual differentiation of the mammalian hypothalamus.
Pharma Bissendorf Peptide, Hannover, Germany.
A number of brain structures and a great number of brain functions have been shown to be sexually dimorphic. It has also been shown that development and differentiation of these structures and functions proceeds during a critical pre- and postnatal period of increased susceptibility, and is controlled by gonadal steroids and neurotransmitter substances. The brain of male and female mammals seems to be still undifferentiated before the period of increased susceptibility to gonadal steroids and neurotransmitters starts. Feminization of brain structure and functions, e.g., establishment of the cyclic LH-surge mechanism and the expression of lordosis behavior, seems to depend on the moderate interaction of estrogens with the developing nervous system. Defeminization and masculinization of brain functions seem to be established during interaction of the developing nervous system with androgens, which have to be converted, at least in part, into estrogens. Structural differentiation of the male brain, e.g., the sexually dimorphic nucleus of the preoptic area (SDN-POA), seems to be exclusively estrogen-dependent, during differentiation of male brain functions, however, estrogens may be supportive, rather than directive, to the primary action of androgens. The molecular mechanisms of sexual differentiation of the brain are not yet fully understood. It seems, however, that the priming action of gonadal steroids during the period of increased susceptibility is either mediated by neurotransmitters, or neurotransmitters modulate the priming action of gonadal steroids. In particular, the adrenergic, the serotoninergic, the cholinergic, and possibly the dopaminergic system were shown to have strong influences on sexual differentiation of brain structure and functions. In contrast to the great number of available studies on the influence of gonadal steroids on sexual differentiation of the brain, there are rather few studies available concerning the influence of neurotransmitter systems. The available results are partly contradictory, so that an interpretation must be done with caution and will leave plenty of room for speculation. Postnatal application of compounds which stimulate or inhibit adrenergic activity mainly affected the neural control of gonadotropin secretion, and had only minor influences on differentiation of behavior patterns. It seems, however, that adrenergic participation in the differentiation of the center for cyclic gonadotropin release is very complex and stimulatory and inhibitory components may operate simultaneously. Activation or inhibition of beta-adrenergic receptors during postnatal development was shown to impair the responsiveness of the center for cyclic gonadotropin release to gonadal steroids, and impairs the expression of ejaculatory behavior in male rats.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 400 WORDS)
Sex-specific aromatization of testosterone in mouse hypothalamic neurons.
Beyer C, Wozniak A, Hutchison JB.
AFRC BABRAHAM Institute, MRC Neuroendocrine Development and Behaviour Group, Cambridge, UK.
Conversion of androgens to oestrogens by neural aromatase during brain development appears to be a prerequisite for sexual differentiation of the mammalian central nervous system. In order to investigate the pre- and perinatal patterns of testosterone (T) aromatization in the male and female mouse brain, aromatase activity (AA) was measured in hypothalamic and cerebral homogenates of embryonic day (ED) 17 fetuses and neonates using an in vitro 3H2O product formation microassay. In addition, AA was examined in gender-specific neuronal cell cultures prepared from ED 15 mouse cerebral hemisphere and hypothalamus at 3 and 6 days in vitro (DIV), and this was compared with enzyme activities in homogenates. The aromatase has also been evaluated in glial-enriched cultures from ED 20 mouse hypothalamus and cortex as well as in ED 15 cultures treated with the neurotoxin kainic acid in order to localize AA to neurons and/or glial cells. Significant sex differences in AA were observed in hypothalamic tissue homogenates as early as ED 17, becoming even more distinct in neonates, AA being always higher in males compared to females. Similar AA was also found in cells from both sexes from cultured ED 15 hypothalamus after 3 DIV. However, significantly higher AA was observed after 6 DIV in ED 15 male hypothalamic cultures compared to female. ED 20 glial-enriched hypothalamic cultures (purity > 95%) from both brain regions exhibited very low AA after 6 DIV, and no sex differences were found.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 250 WORDS)
Aromatase-immunoreactivity is localised specifically in neurones in the developing mouse hypothalamus and cortex.
Beyer C, Green SJ, Barker PJ, Huskisson NS, Hutchison JB.
MRC Neuroendocrine Development and Behaviour Group, BABRAHAM Institute, Cambridge, UK.
Local formation of oestrogens from androgens by aromatase cytochrome P-450 within brain cells is crucial for the sexual differentiation of the mammalian CNS. Aromatase activity has been detected in several brain regions of the developing rodent brain. In the present study, we used a mouse-specific, peptide-generated, polyclonal aromatase antibody to determine whether neurones and/or glial cells in the developing brain are involved in androgen aromatization and if aromatase-immunoreactive (Arom-IR) cells exhibit a sex-specific distribution and regional-specific morphological characteristics. For these experiments, gender-specific cell cultures were prepared from embryonic day 15 mouse hypothalamus and cortex. Specificity of the immunoreaction was confirmed by Western-blot analysis and by inhibition of aromatase activity using tissue homogenates from mouse ovaries and male newborn hypothalamus and from male hypothalamic cultures with known aromatase activity, respectively. Arom-IR cells were found in both hypothalamic and cortical cultures. Double-labeling experiments revealed that Arom-IR cells co-stained only for the neuronal marker MAP II, but never for glial markers. Therefore aromatase immunoreactivity is specifically neuronal. Regional differences in the morphology of Arom-IR neurones were observed between both brain regions. In hypothalamic cultures, IR-neurones represented a heterologous population of phenotypes (magnocellular, small bipolar and multipolar neurones with long processes showing varicose-like structures or without processes). Cortical Arom-IR neurones were always oval in shape with short or no IR-processes. Sexual dimorphisms in numbers of Arom-IR neurones were found in the hypothalamus with significantly higher cell numbers in male cultures.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 250 WORDS)
Gender-specific steroid metabolism in neural differentiation.
MRC Neuroendocrine Development and Behaviour Group, Babraham Institute, Cambridge, U.K.
1. Both the neuroendocrine system and the brain mechanisms underlying gender-specific behavior are known to be organized by steroid sex hormones, androgen and estrogen, during specific sensitive phases of early fetal and perinatal development. The factors that control these phasic effects of the hormones on brain development are still not understood. Processes of masculinization and defeminization are thought to be involved in the sex differentiation of mammalian reproductive behavior. 2. The P450 aromatase, converting androgen to estrogen, is a key enzyme in the development of neural systems, and the activity of this enzyme is likely to be one of the factors determining brain sex differentiation. 3. We have examined the localization and regulation of brain aromatase using the mouse as a model. Measurement of testosterone conversion to estradiol-17 beta, using a sensitive radiometric 3H2O assay, indicates that estrogens are formed more actively in the male mouse brain than in the female during both the prenatal and the neonatal periods. In primary cell cultures of embryonic mouse hypothalamus there are sex differences in aromatase activity during early and late embryogenesis, with a higher capacity for estrogen formation in the male than the female. These sex differences are regionally specific in the brain, since on gender differences in aromatase activity are detectable in cortical cells. 4. Aromatase activity in the mouse brain is neuronal rather than glial. Using a specific antibody to the mouse aromatase, immunoreactivity is restricted to neuronal soma and neurites in hypothalamic cultures. There are more neurons containing expressed aromatase in the male hypothalamus than in the female. Therefore, gender-specific differences in embryonic aromatase activity are neuronal. 5. Testosterone increases aromatase activity specifically in hypothalamic neurons, but has no effect on cortical cells. The neuronal aromatase activity appears to be sensitive to the inductive effects of androgen only in the later stages of embryonic development. Androgen also increases the numbers of aromatase-immunoreactive neurons in the hypothalamus. 6. This work suggests that the embryonic male hypothalamus and other androgen target areas contain a network of neurons which has the capacity to provide estrogen for the sexual differentiation of brain mechanisms of behavior. The phasic activity of the key enzyme, aromatase, during development is influenced by androgen. What determines the developmental action of androgen and the other factors involved in the regulation and expression of this neuronal enzyme still have to be established.
Developmental sex differences in estrogen receptor-beta mRNA expression in the mouse hypothalamus/preoptic region.
Karolczak M, Beyer C.
Abteilung Anatomie und Zellbiologie, Universitat Ulm, Germany.
Estrogens play a significant role during mammalian brain development and are required for the masculinization of neuronal circuits involved in sex-specific behaviors and neuroendocrine functions. Cellular estrogen signalling is transmitted through nuclear estrogen receptors (ER) which are divided into two subforms: the ER-alpha as well as the recently cloned ER-beta have been demonstrated in the hypothalamus. In the present study, we have analyzed the sex-specific expression of ER-beta mRNA in the pre- and postnatal mouse hypothalamus/preoptic region (Hyp/POA) by semiquantitative RT-PCR. The ER-beta mRNA was detectable as early as embryonic day (E) 15 in the diencephalon of both sexes. In males, levels of mRNA expression in the Hyp/POA increased until birth and remained high throughout postnatal (P) development, whereas in females, such an increase was not observed. Significantly higher mRNA levels were detected in the male Hyp/POA from E17 until P15. Perinatal sex differences in ER-beta mRNA expression coincide with higher estrogen-forming rates in the male Hyp/POA. At present, no direct evidence is available which demonstrates that estrogen signalling through ER-beta is involved in brain development. However, data from our and other studies suggest a potential role for this signal transduction pathway for brain differentiation.
Abteilung Anatomie und Zellbiologie, Universitat Ulm, Germany. firstname.lastname@example.org
In recent years, the knowledge of how estrogen interferes with mammalian brain functions and development has broadened substantially. In the adult brain, estrogen is not only involved in the neuroendocrine feedback regulation at the hypothalamic and pituitary level but also in the control of motor and cognitive functions. More recently, estrogen was found to act as a protective factor for neurodegenerative disorders such as Parkinson's and Alzheimer's disease. In contrast to these regulatory and protective functions, estrogen plays a different role during neuronal development. After the demonstration that the estrogen-synthesizing enzyme aromatase and both nuclear estrogen receptors are expressed in many brain areas during ontogeny, it was soon realized that estrogen modulates neuronal differentiation, notably by influencing cell migration, survival and death, and synaptic plasticity of neurons. These effects were initially seen in the classical target area for estrogen, the hypothalamus, but successive studies revealed the neurotrophic potential of estrogen also in other brain regions. The focus of this review will be to summarize estrogen formation and the role of estrogen during mammalian brain development. Moreover, cellular mechanisms involved in these neurotrophic effects will be discussed, giving special emphasis to "nongenomic" estrogen signaling and cross-coupling of estrogen signaling with those of growth factors.
Novel mechanisms of estrogen action in the brain: new players in an old story.
Toran-Allerand CD, Singh M, Setalo G Jr.
Department of Anatomy and Cell Biology, Center for Neurobiology, Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, New York, New York 10032, USA. email@example.com
Estrogen elicits a selective enhancement of the growth and differentiation of axons and dendrites (neurites) in the developing brain. Widespread colocalization of estrogen and neurotrophin receptors (trk) within estrogen and neurotrophin targets, including neurons of the cerebral cortex, sensory ganglia, and PC12 cells, has been shown to result in differential and reciprocal transcriptional regulation of these receptors by their ligands. In addition, estrogen and neurotrophin receptor coexpression leads to convergence or cross-coupling of their signaling pathways, particularly at the level of the mitogen-activated protein (MAP) kinase cascade. 17beta-Estradiol elicits rapid (within 5-15 min) and sustained (at least 2 h) tyrosine phosphorylation and activation of the MAP kinases, extracellular-signal regulated kinase (ERK)1, and ERK2, which is successfully inhibited by the MAP kinase/ERK kinase 1 inhibitor PD98059, but not by the estrogen receptor (ER) antagonist ICI 182,780 and also does not appear to result from estradiol-induced activation of trk. Furthermore, the ability of estradiol to phosphorylate ERK persists even in ER-alpha knockout mice, implicating other estrogen receptors such as ER-beta in these actions of estradiol. The existence of an estrogen receptor-containing, multimeric complex consisting of hsp90, src, and B-Raf also suggests a direct link between the estrogen receptor and the MAP kinase signaling cascade. Collectively, these novel findings, coupled with our growing understanding of additional signaling substrates utilized by estrogen, provide alternative mechanisms for estrogen action in the developing brain which could explain not only some of the very rapid effects of estrogen, but also the ability of estrogen and neurotrophins to regulate the same broad array of cytoskeletal and growth-associated genes involved in neurite growth and differentiation. This review expands the usually restrictive view of estrogen action in the brain beyond the confines of sexual differentiation and reproductive neuroendocrine function. It considers the much broader question of estrogen as a neural growth factor with important influences on the development, survival, plasticity, regeneration, and aging of the mammalian brain and supports the view that the estrogen receptor is not only a ligand-induced transcriptional enhancer but also a mediator of rapid, nongenomic events. Copyright 1999 Academic Press.
Steroid receptor coactivator SRC-1 exhibits high expression in steroid-sensitive brain areas regulating reproductive behaviors in the quail brain.
Charlier TD, Lakaye B, Ball GF, Balthazart J.
University of Liege, Center for Cellular and Molecular Neurobiology, Research Group in Behavioral Neuroendocrinology, and Laboratory of Neurochemistry, Liege, Belgium.
The steroid receptor coactivator SRC-1 modulates ligand-dependent transactivation of several nuclear receptors, including the receptors for sex steroid hormones. Reducing the expression of SRC-1 by injection of specific antisense oligonucleotides markedly inhibits the effects of estrogens of the sexual differentiation of brain and behavior in rats and inhibits the activation of female sexual behavior in adult female rats. SRC-1 thus appears to be involved in both the development and activation of sexual behavior. In the Japanese quail brain, we amplified by RT-PCR a 3,411-bp fragment extending from the HLH domain to the activating domain-2 of the protein. The quail SRC-1 is closely related to the mammalian (m) SRC-1 and contains a high proportion of GC nucleotides (62.5%). Its amino acid sequence presents 70% identity with mammalian SRC-1 and contains the three conserved LXXLL boxes involved in the interaction with nuclear receptors. In both males and females, RT-PCR demonstrates a similarly high level of expression in the telencephalon, diencephalon, optic lobes, brain stem, spinal cord, pituitary, liver, kidney, adrenal gland, heart, lung, gonads and gonoducts. Males express significantly higher levels of SRC-1 in the preoptic area-hypothalamus than females. In both sexes, lower levels of expression are observed in the cerebellum and muscles. In situ hybridization utilizing a mixture of four digoxigenin-labeled oligonucleotides confirms at the cellular level the widespread distribution of SRC-1 mRNA in the brain and a particularly dense expression in steroid-sensitive areas that play a key role in the control of male sexual behavior. These data confirm the presence and describe for the first time the SRC-1 distribution in the brain of an avian species. They confirm its broad, nearly ubiquitous, distribution in the entire body including the brain as could be expected for a coactivator that regulates to the action of many nuclear receptors. However this distribution is heterogeneous in the brain and sexually differentiated in at least some areas. The very dense expression of SRC-1 in limbic and mesencephalic nuclei that are associated with the control of male sexual behavior is consistent with the notion that this coactivator plays a significant role in the activation of this behavior. Copyright 2002 S. Karger AG, Basel
Mammalian development in a changing environment: exposure to endocrine disruptors reveals the developmental plasticity of steroid-hormone target organs.
Markey CM, Coombs MA, Sonnenschein C, Soto AM.
Department of Anatony and Cellular Biology, Tufts University School of Medicine, Boston, MA 02111-1800, USA.
Recent findings in the field of environmental endocrine disruption have revealed that developmental exposure to estrogenic chemicals induces morphological, functional, and behavioral anomalies associated with reproduction. The aim of the present study was to determine the effects of in utero exposure to low doses of the estrogenic chemical bisphenol A (BPA) on the development of the female reproductive tissues and mammary glands in CD-1 mice. Humans are exposed to BPA, which leaches from dental materials and plastic food and beverage containers. Here we report that prenatal exposure to BPA induces alterations in tissue organization within the ovaries and mammary glands and disrupts estrous cyclicity in adulthood. Because estrogen receptors are expressed developmentally in these estrogen-target organs, we propose that BPA may directly affect the expression of genes involved in their morphogenesis. In addition, alterations in the sexual differentiation of the brain, and thus the hypothalamic-pituitary-gonadal axis, may further contribute to the observed phenotype. The emerging field of endocrine disruptors promises to provide new insights into the mechanisms underlying the development of hormone-target organs and demonstrates that the environment plays important roles in the making of phenotypes.