[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Sex steroid hormones influence the perceptual processing of sensory signals in vertebrates. In particular, decades of research have shown that circulating levels of estrogen correlate with hearing function. The mechanisms and sites of action supporting this sensory-neuroendocrine modulation, however, remain unknown. Here we combined a molecular cloning strategy, fluorescence in-situ hybridization and unbiased quantification methods to show that estrogen-producing and -sensitive neurons heavily populate the adult mouse primary auditory cortex (AI). We also show that auditory experience in freely-behaving animals engages estrogen-producing and -sensitive neurons in AI. These estrogen-associated networks are greatly stable, and do not quantitatively change as a result of acute episodes of sensory experience. We further demonstrate the neurochemical identity of estrogen-producing and estrogen-sensitive neurons in AI and show that these cell populations are phenotypically distinct. Our findings provide the first direct demonstration that estrogen-associated circuits are highly prevalent and engaged by sensory experience in the mouse auditory cortex, and suggest that previous correlations between estrogen levels and hearing function may be related to brain-generated hormone production. Finally, our findings suggest that estrogenic modulation may be a central component of the operational framework of central auditory networks.
Journal of Experimental Neuroscience 10/2011; 2011(5):45-60.
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The classic female estrogen, 17β-estradiol (E2), has been repeatedly shown to affect the perceptual processing of visual cues. Although gonadal E2 has often been thought to influence these processes, the possibility that central visual processing may be modulated by brain-generated hormone has not been explored. Here we show that estrogen-associated circuits are highly prevalent in the mouse primary visual cortex (V1). Specifically, we cloned aromatase, a marker for estrogen-producing neurons, and the classic estrogen receptors (ERs) ERα and ERβ, as markers for estrogen-responsive neurons, and conducted a detailed expression analysis via in-situ hybridization. We found that both monocular and binocular V1 are highly enriched in aromatase- and ER-positive neurons, indicating that V1 is a site of production and sensitivity to estrogens. Using double-fluorescence in-situ hybridization, we reveal the neurochemical identity of estrogen-producing and -sensitive cells in V1, and demonstrate that they constitute a heterogeneous neuronal population. We further show that visual experience engages a large population of aromatase-positive neurons and, to a lesser extent, ER-expressing neurons, suggesting that E2 levels may be locally regulated by visual input in V1. Interestingly, acute episodes of visual experience do not affect the density or distribution of estrogen-associated circuits. Finally, we show that adult mice dark-reared from birth also exhibit normal distribution of aromatase and ERs throughout V1, suggesting that the implementation and maintenance of estrogen-associated circuits is independent of visual experience. Our findings demonstrate that the adult V1 is a site of production and sensitivity to estrogens, and suggest that locally-produced E2 may shape visual cortical processing.
PLoS ONE 01/2011; 6(5):e20400. · 3.73 Impact Factor