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Mol Endocrinol. 2008 Oct;22(10):2250-9. doi: 10.1210/me.2008-0192. Epub 2008 Aug 13.

Converse regulatory functions of estrogen receptor-alpha and -beta subtypes expressed in hypothalamic gonadotropin-releasing hormone neurons.

Author information

  • 1Endocrinology and Reproduction Research Branch, PDEGEN, National Institue of Child Health and Human Development, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Maryland 20892-4510, USA.

Erratum in

  • Mol Endocrinol. 2009 Mar;23(3):423.


Estradiol (E(2)) acts as a potent feedback molecule between the ovary and hypothalamic GnRH neurons, and exerts both positive and negative regulatory actions on GnRH synthesis and secretion. However, the extent to which these actions are mediated by estrogen receptors (ERs) expressed in GnRH neurons has been controversial. In this study, Single-cell RT-PCR revealed the expression of both ERalpha and ERbeta isoforms in cultured fetal and adult rat hypothalamic GnRH neurons. Both ERalpha and ERbeta or individual ERs were expressed in 94% of cultured fetal GnRH neurons. In adult female rats at diestrus, 68% of GnRH neurons expressed ERs, followed by 54% in estrus and 19% in proestrus. Expression of individual ERs was found in 24% of adult male GnRH neurons. ERalpha exerted marked G(i)-mediated inhibitory effects on spontaneous action potential (AP) firing, cAMP production, and pulsatile GnRH secretion, indicating its capacity for negative regulation of GnRH neuronal function. In contrast, increased E(2) concentration and ERbeta agonists increase the rate of AP firing, GnRH secretion, and cAMP production, consistent with ERbeta-dependent positive regulation of GnRH secretion. Consonant with the coupling of ERalpha to pertussis toxin-sensitive G(i/o) proteins, E(2) also activates G protein-activated inwardly rectifying potassium channels, decreasing membrane excitability and slowing the firing of spontaneous APs in hypothalamic GnRH neurons. These findings demonstrate that the dual actions of E(2) on GnRH neuronal membrane excitability, cAMP production, and GnRH secretion are mediated by the dose-dependent activation of ERalpha and ERbeta expressed in hypothalamic GnRH neurons.

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