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Brain Res. 2010 Jun 8;1336:78-88. doi: 10.1016/j.brainres.2010.03.098. Epub 2010 Apr 8.

Estrogen receptor beta activation prevents glucocorticoid receptor-dependent effects of the central nucleus of the amygdala on behavior and neuroendocrine function.

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  • 1Department of Biomedical Sciences, Neuroscience Division, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, CO, USA.


Neuropsychiatric disorders such as anxiety and depression have formidable economic and societal impacts. A dysregulation of the hypothalamo-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis leading to elevated endogenous glucocorticoid levels is often associated with such disorders. Chronically high glucocorticoid levels may act upon the central nucleus of the amygdala (CeA) to alter normally adaptive responses into those that are maladaptive and detrimental. In addition to glucocorticoids, other steroid hormones such as estradiol and androgens can also modify hormonal and behavioral responses to threatening stimuli. In particular, estrogen receptor beta (ERbeta) agonists have been shown to be anxiolytic. Consequently, these experiments addressed the hypothesis that the selective stimulation of glucocorticoid receptor (GR) in the CeA would increase anxiety-like behaviors and HPA axis reactivity to stress, and further, that an ERbeta agonist could modulate these effects. Young adult female Sprague-Dawley rats were ovariectomized and bilaterally implanted via stereotaxic surgery with a wax pellet containing the selective GR agonist RU28362 or a blank pellet, to a region just dorsal to the CeA. Four days later, animals were administered the ERbeta agonist S-DPN or vehicle (with four daily sc injections). Anxiety-type behaviors were measured using the elevated plus maze (EPM). Central RU28362 implants caused significantly higher anxiety-type behaviors in the EPM and greater plasma CORT levels than controls given a blank central implant. Moreover, S-DPN treated animals, regardless of type of central implant, displayed significantly lower anxiety-type behaviors and post-EPM plasma CORT levels than vehicle treated controls or vehicle treated animals implanted with RU28362. These results indicate that selective activation of GR within the CeA is anxiogenic, and peripheral administration of an ERbeta agonist can overcome this effect. These data suggest that estradiol signaling via ERbeta prevents glucocorticoid-dependent effects of the CeA on behavior and neuroendocrine function.

Copyright 2010 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

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