ABSTRACT: Estradiol modulates stress reactions in female rats. Several studies showed anxiolytic effects of estradiol in behavioral tests, but the underlying mechanisms are still unclear. The aim of the current study was to explore how estradiol-treated rats respond to acute and chronic stress compared to ovariectomized rats. Ovariectomized rats received vehicle or 17beta-estradiol injections (10 microg/250 g) once every 4 days, which induced alternating high and low plasma 17beta-estradiol levels. Stress was presented by daily exposure to an adverse environment in which the animals received five footshocks for either 3 or 22 days. Under control conditions no differences were observed, but as soon as stress was applied, reactions of ovariectomized and estradiol-treated rats diverged. Both acute and chronic stress increased the c-Fos protein expression in the paraventricular nucleus (PVN) of the hypothalamus. Cyclic estradiol treatment reduced this stress-induced activation of the PVN, an effect that seems to be dependent on the plasma estradiol levels. No differences in stress-induced corticosterone responses were revealed between the treatment groups. An increase in the number of ERbeta-expressing cells in the PVN of ovariectomized and estradiol-treated rats during chronic stress implied increased ERbeta-mediated mechanisms during these conditions. The dampening effect of estradiol on the excessive stress-induced activity in the PVN may be beneficial for the animal in its response to chronic recurrent stress by reducing the output of the PVN.
Brain Research Bulletin 10/2005; 67(1-2):147-55. · 2.82 Impact Factor