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Endocrinology. 2007 Feb;148(2):627-37. Epub 2006 Nov 2.

17beta-estradiol protects cortical neurons against oxidative stress-induced cell death through reduction in the activity of mitogen-activated protein kinase and in the accumulation of intracellular calcium.

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Division of Pharmacology/Neurobiology, Biozentrum, University of Basel, Klingelbergstrasse 50/70, CH-4056 Basel, Switzerland.


Although many studies have suggested that estrogen acts as a neuroprotective agent in oxidative stress, the underlying mechanism has not been fully elucidated. In the present study, we examined the effect of 17beta-estradiol (17beta-E2) on H(2)O(2)-induced death signaling in cultured cortical neurons. Exposure of the cortical neurons to H(2)O(2) triggered a series of events, including overactivation of p44/42 MAPK and intracellular Ca(2+) accumulation via voltage-gated Ca(2+) channels and ionotropic glutamate receptors, resulting in apoptotic-like cell death. The MAPK pathway might work as death signaling in our system, because the MAPK pathway inhibitor, U0126, blocked H(2)O(2)-induced MAPK activation, Ca(2+) overload, and cell death. Interestingly, a similar inhibitory effect on H(2)O(2)-triggered MAPK activation, Ca(2+) accumulation, and cell death was observed in cultures incubated with 17beta-E2 for 24 h before exposure to H(2)O(2), suggesting that the protective effect of 17beta-E2 is induced via attenuating overactivation of the MAPK pathway. Furthermore, we found that ionotropic glutamate receptor subunits, including NR2A and GluR2/3, but not NR2B and GluR1, were down-regulated in the 17beta-E2-treated cultures. The down-regulation of these glutamate receptor subunits was also observed after chronic treatment with U0126. Therefore, it is possible that 17beta-E2 down-regulates the expression of the ionotropic glutamate receptors by reducing activity of the MAPK pathway, which might be important for the protective effect of 17beta-E2 against oxidative stress-induced toxicity.

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