Tamoxifen enhances choline acetyltransferase mRNA expression in rat basal forebrain cholinergic neurons.
ABSTRACT Novel estrogen-like molecules known as SERMs (selective estrogen receptor modulators) produce many of the beneficial estrogen-like actions without the detrimental side-effects. The SERM, tamoxifen, an estrogen-like molecule with both agonist and antagonist properties, is widely prescribed for the treatment of breast cancer. While the effects of tamoxifen are being evaluated in many peripheral tissues, its effects in the central nervous system (CNS) have been largely ignored. In the present study, we begin to evaluate the effects of tamoxifen in the rat basal forebrain, a region known to be highly responsive to estrogen. We compared the effects of short-term (24 h) tamoxifen treatment to that of estrogen on ChAT mRNA expression in cholinergic neurons. In addition, we examined the effect of tamoxifen in the presence and absence of estrogen. Our results indicate that tamoxifen enhances ChAT expression in a manner similar to that of estrogen in several basal forebrain regions. In contrast, tamoxifen exhibits antagonist properties with respect to estrogen-induction of progesterone receptor mRNA in the medial preoptic nucleus. These results indicate tamoxifen has estrogenic properties with respect to cholinergic neurons, suggesting a previously unidentified effect of this agent in the CNS.