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J Nippon Med Sch. 2005 Dec;72(6):316-25.

Steroid Hormones, their receptors and neuroendocrine system.

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Department of Anatomy and Neurobiology, Graduate School of Medicine, Nippon Medical School, Tokyo, Japan.


The brain is an important target organ for circulating steroid hormones secreted from peripheral organs such as the adrenal cortex, testis and/or ovary. In other words, these peripheral organs control the central nervous system. Steroid hormones substantially influence brain development, reproduction, sexual differentiation, cognition, memory, behavior, and so on. These effects are mediated by steroid hormone receptors, which directly regulate gene expression. The steroid hormone receptor superfamily is an intracellular ligand-regulated transcription factor. All members, including the glucocorticoid receptors (GR), mineralocoroticoid receptors (MR), estrogen receptors (ER), progesterone receptors (PR) and androgen receptor (AR), mediate the expression of a gene by binding to hormone responsive elements (HREs) as dimmers in a ligand-dependent manner. In particular, steroid hormones have an important role for the regulating neurons and cells, which are associated with the neuroendocrine and endocrine regulation system, because many neuroendocrine neurons and cells express the steroid hormone receptors, such as estrogen receptor (ER), androgen receptor (AR) and corticosteroid receptors. In this review, first the localization of GR and MR immunoreactivities in the brain is introduced, and secondly, the effects of change of GR expression in neurons are examined by several morphological approaches. Third, the interaction of GR expression and pituitary cell function is introduced. Finally, the recent topics on the control system of feeding regulation in the central nervous system, which also closely involves steroid hormone action, are discussed.

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