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Endocrinology. 2011 May;152(5):1745-51. doi: 10.1210/en.2010-1290. Epub 2011 Feb 22.

17β-estradiol increases astrocytic vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) in adult female rat hippocampus.

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The Nathan Kline Institute, Orangeburg, New York 10962, USA.


Vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) is critical to angiogenesis and vascular permeability. It is also important in the endocrine system, in which VEGF mediates the vascular effects of estrogens in target tissues such as the uterus, a response attributed to an estrogen response element on the VEGF gene. Here we asked whether 17β-estradiol increases VEGF levels in the brain. We focused on the hippocampus, in which 17β-estradiol and VEGF both have important actions, and used immunocytochemistry to evaluate VEGF protein. VEGF immunoreactivity was compared in adult female rats sampled during the estrous cycle when serum levels of 17β-estradiol peak (proestrous morning) as well as when they are low (metestrous morning). In addition, adult rats were ovariectomized and compared after treatment with 17β-estradiol or vehicle. The results demonstrated that VEGF immunoreactivity was increased when serum levels of 17β-estradiol were elevated. Confocal microscopy showed that VEGF immunofluorescence was predominantly nonneuronal, often associated with astrocytes. Glial VEGF labeling was primarily punctate rather than diffuse and labile because glial VEGF immunoreactivity was greatly reduced if tissue sections were left in an aqueous medium overnight. We conclude that VEGF protein in normal female hippocampus is primarily nonneuronal rather than neuronal and suggest that glial VEGF immunoreactivity has been underestimated by past studies with other methods because there is a labile extracellular pool. We suggest that estrogens may exert actions on female hippocampal structure and function by increasing hippocampal VEGF.

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