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J Steroid Biochem Mol Biol. 2002 Aug;81(4-5):319-25.

Cell type-specificity of nonclassical estrogen signaling in the developing midbrain.

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  • 1Abteilung Anatomie und Zellbiologie, Universit├Ąt Ulm, Germany.


Estrogens have widespread biological functions in the CNS involving the coordination of developmental processes, the regulation of cell physiology, and the control of neuroendocrine systems. In the midbrain, estrogens promote the survival, maturation, and function of neurons and, in particular, of dopamine cells. Aside from classical signaling through nuclear estrogen receptors, we have provided evidence that cellular transmission of estrogen effects in the midbrain comprises a complex intracellular signaling scenario. The major conclusion drawn from our studies is that estrogens interact with yet unidentified membrane receptor complexes which stimulate the phospholipase C and induce the formation of inosite-tri-phosphate (IP(3)). This causes a rapid and transitory rise in intracellular free calcium. The modulation of calcium homeostasis is the primary nonclassical physiological response to estrogens in all cell types. Surprisingly, a different secondary downstream signaling cascade seems to be activated in each estrogen-responsive cell population, i.e. phosphatidylinositol-3 kinase (PI3-kinase) in GABAergic and cAMP/ protein kinase A (PKA) in dopaminergic neurons, mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAP-kinase) in astrocytes. The precise biological role of estrogens for the different cell types is still fragmentary. We assume that estrogens positively influence intracellular signaling mechanisms which are important for cell differentiation and survival. It remains to be elucidated what determines the cell type-specificity of these estrogen responses.

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