Send to

Choose Destination
Endocrinology. 2005 Sep;146(9):3843-50. Epub 2005 Jun 9.

17alpha-estradiol: a brain-active estrogen?

Author information

Department of Anatomy and Cell Biology, Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, 650 West 168th Street, Black Building, Room 1615, New York, New York 10032, USA.


The estrogen 17beta-estradiol has profound effects on the brain throughout life, whereas 17alpha-estradiol, the natural optical isomer, is generally considered less active because it binds less avidly to estrogen receptors. On the contrary, recent studies in the brain document that 17alpha-estradiol elicits rapid and sustained activation of the MAPK/ERK and phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase-Akt signaling pathways; is neuroprotective, after an ischemic stroke and oxidative stress, and in transgenic mice with Alzheimer's disease; and influences spatial memory and hippocampal-dependent synaptic plasticity. The present study measured the endogenous content of 17alpha-estradiol in the brain and further clarified its actions and kinetics. Here we report that: 1) endogenous levels of 17alpha-estradiol and its precursor estrone are significantly elevated in the postnatal and adult mouse brain and adrenal gland of both sexes, as determined by liquid chromatography/tandem mass spectrometry; 2) 17alpha-estradiol and 17beta-estradiol bind estrogen receptors with similar binding affinities; 3) 17alpha-estradiol transactivates an estrogen-responsive reporter gene; and 4) unlike 17beta-estradiol, 17alpha-estradiol does not bind alpha-fetoprotein or SHBG, the estrogen-binding plasma proteins of the developing rodent and primate, respectively. 17alpha-Estradiol was also found in the brains of gonadectomized or gonadectomized/adrenalectomized mice, supporting the hypothesis that 17alpha-estradiol is locally synthesized in the brain. These findings challenge the view that 17alpha-estradiol is without biological significance and suggest that 17alpha-estradiol and its selective receptor, ER-X, are not part of a classical hormone/receptor endocrine system but of a system with important autocrine/paracrine functions in the developing and adult brain. 17alpha-Estradiol may have enormous implications for hormone replacement strategies at the menopause and in the treatment of such neurodegenerative disorders as Alzheimer's disease and ischemic stroke.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

Supplemental Content

Full text links

Icon for Silverchair Information Systems
Loading ...
Support Center