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Neuroendocrinology. 1996 Jan;63(1):53-60.

Regulation of estrogen receptor concentrations in the rat brain: effects of sustained androgen and estrogen exposure.

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  • 1Department of Zoology, University of Toronto, Canada.


To determine whether estrogen and androgens either alone or in combination downregulate estrogen receptors in the brain, ovariectomized/adrenalectomized female rats received one of the following four treatments: (1) one subcutaneously placed Silastic capsule containing 10% estradiol in cholesterol, (2) one capsule containing 10% estradiol and two capsules containing 100% 5 alpha-dihydrotestosterone (DHT), (3) two capsules containing DHT, or (4) empty Silastic capsules (control animals). Animals were killed 4 or 8 days after capsule insertion and the occupied, unoccupied and total estrogen receptor content in specific brain nuclei was determined by quantitative in vitro autoradiography. To determine if the effects of the androgen were reversible, DHT capsules were removed after 4 days from half of the estradiol+DHT-treated rats, and the animals were killed 4 days later. Estradiol downregulated estrogen receptor expression in the periventricular preoptic area, medial preoptic area, bed nucleus of the stria terminalis (BNST), arcuate nucleus (ARC), ventromedial nucleus (VMN), and medial and cortical amygdala, decreasing receptor content by 30-41% in animals treated for 4 days, and by 44-60% in animals treated for 8 days with estradiol alone. DHT treatment in combination with estradiol further decreased estrogen receptor content in the BNST, ARC and VMN, relative to the estradiol-only animals. DHT in the absence of estrogen was without effect. In animals in which the DHT capsules were removed after 4 days of exposure, allowing the estradiol to remain for a further 4 days, estrogen receptor levels were indistinguishable from those measured in control animals treated for 8 days with estradiol alone. These results demonstrate that sustained estrogen exposure downregulates levels of estrogen receptor in the brain and confirm that DHT synergizes with estrogen in inducing this response in some, but not all, target neuronal groups.

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