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Mol Cell Endocrinol. 2000 Dec 22;170(1-2):219-29.

Differential expression of estrogen receptors alpha and beta in adult rat accessory sex glands and lower urinary tract.

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  • 1Department of Anatomy, Medicity Research Laboratory, University of Turku, Institute of Biomedicine, Kiinamyllynkatu 10, FIN-20520 Turku, Finland.


Estrogens induce pronounced structural and functional changes in male accessory sex glands and the lower urinary tract in both sexes, but the exact mechanisms of estrogen action are not fully understood. This study was undertaken to localise the tissue cell types that express estrogen receptor in adult rats, and to determine the receptor subtype (ERalpha and ERbeta) in order to identify sites that may respond directly to estrogens. In the male accessory sex glands (seminal vesicles, prostatic lobes and ampullary glands), ERbeta mRNA and protein were strongly expressed in the epithelium but not in the stroma, while ERalpha mRNA was present only in the fibromuscular tissue surrounding the prostatic collecting ducts in the posterior periurethral region and in ampullary gland stroma. In the epithelium of the urinary bladder and urethra of both sexes, high level of ERbeta mRNA and protein, but no ERalpha mRNA, was detected. The connective tissue in urinary bladder of both males and females, as well as that in prostatic urethra in males expressed ERalpha mRNA. The neural cells in the autonomic ganglia of the prostatic plexus were strongly positive for ERbeta mRNA, but were completely devoid of ERalpha. We conclude that ERbeta is the predominant ER subtype in the epithelium of adult male rat accessory sex glands and the lower urinary tract of both males and females, as well as in the prostatic neural plexus regulating the function of the lower urinary tract in males, while ERalpha is present only in the stromal compartment of distinct sites. These results indicate that in these tissues in intact adults there are multiple targets for direct estrogen action. Furthermore, the differential or complementary expression of the two ER subtypes suggests that they may have specific functions, and may explain the complex structural and functional changes induced by estrogens.

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