Glucocorticoids have profound effects on brain development and adult CNS function. Excess or insufficient glucocorticoids cause myriad abnormalities from development to ageing. The actions of glucocorticoids within cells are determined not only by blood steroid levels and target cell receptor density, but also by intracellular metabolism by 11β-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenases (11β-HSD). 11β-HSD1 regenerates active glucocorticoids from their inactive 11-keto derivatives and is widely expressed throughout the adult CNS. Elevated hippocampal and neocortical 11β-HSD1 is observed with ageing and causes cognitive decline; its deficiency prevents the emergence of cognitive defects with age. Conversely, 11β-HSD2 is a dehydrogenase, inactivating glucocorticoids. The major central effects of 11β-HSD2 occur in development, as expression of 11β-HSD2 is high in fetal brain and placenta. Deficient feto-placental 11β-HSD2 results in a life-long phenotype of anxiety and cardiometabolic disorders, consistent with early life glucocorticoid programming.
The sex difference in Parkinson's disease, with a higher susceptibility in men, suggests a modulatory effect of sex steroids in the brain. Numerous studies highlight that sex steroids have neuroprotective properties against various brain injuries. This paper reviews the protective effects of sex hormones, particularly estradiol, progesterone and androgens, in the 1-methyl-4-phenyl-1,2,3,6-tetrahydropyridine (MPTP) animal model of Parkinson's disease as compared to methamphetamine toxicity. The molecular mechanisms underlying beneficial actions of sex steroids on the brain have been investigated showing steroid, dose, timing and duration specificities and presently focus is on the dopamine signaling pathways, the next frontier. Both genomic and non-genomic actions of estrogen converge to promote survival factors and show sex differences. Neuroprotection by estrogen involves activation of signaling molecules such as the phosphatidylinositol-3 kinase/Akt and the mitogen-activated protein kinase pathways. Interaction with growth factors, such as insulin-like growth factor 1, also contributes to protective actions of estrogen.
Neuroendocrine pharmacology represents a potentially valuable approach to the assessment of alterations in neuronal function in the brain of human cocaine abusers. Neuroendocrine effects of the monoamine uptake inhibitor cocaine have predominantly been examined in laboratory animals. These preclinical studies may help to identify the optimal challenge tests to be performed in clinical studies. In laboratory animals, acute administration of cocaine activates the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis, via actions on serotonergic and dopaminergic neurons in the brain. Cocaine also reduces prolactin secretion, probably by dopaminergic mechanisms, although the necessary studies to confirm this hypothesis have not been performed. Cocaine also reduces renin secretion, and increases vasopressin and luteinizing hormone secretion, by mechanisms which have not been clearly established. The adrenocorticotropin, corticosterone, prolactin, and renin responses to cocaine are generally unaltered by prior cocaine exposure, suggesting that tolerance or sensitization to the endocrine effects of cocaine does not occur. However, several studies have determined that prior cocaine exposure alters the serotonergic regulation of hormone secretion. Chronic cocaine exposure reduces some of the hormone responses to the serotonin (5-HT) releasers p-chloroamphetamine and d-fenfluramine, suggesting deficits in the functional status of serotonergic nerve terminals. Additionally, repeated cocaine exposure produces subsensitive 5-HT1A-mediated hormone responses, and supersensitive 5-HT2-mediated responses. Alterations in dopaminergic- or noradrenergic-mediated hormone responses have not been examined in animals chronically exposed to cocaine. Endocrine studies in human cocaine abusers have largely examined basal hormone levels or the hormone responses to cocaine. Strong conclusions from these studies are limited because (1) many neuronal and nonneuronal systems regulate secretion of each hormone, so that alterations in basal hormone levels cannot be attributed to only one neurotransmitter; and (2) hormone responses to cocaine cannot be examined in cocaine-naive subjects due to ethical considerations, making it impossible to determine whether the response in cocaine abusers is abnormal. It may be more beneficial for studies in cocaine abusers to examine the hormone responses to drugs that specifically affect monoaminergic neurons and compare the data with cocaine-naive individuals.
Maturation of the reproductive system during puberty results in elevated levels of gonadal steroid hormones. These hormones sculpt neural circuits during adolescence, a time of dramatic rewiring of the nervous system. Here, we review the evidence that steroid-dependent organization of the adolescent brain programs a variety of adult behaviors in animals and humans. Converging lines of evidence indicate that adolescence may be a sensitive period for steroid-dependent brain organization and that variation in the timing of interactions between the hormones of puberty and the adolescent brain leads to individual differences in adult behavior and risk of sex-biased psychopathologies.
Oxytocin secretion from the posterior pituitary gland is increased during parturition, stimulated by the uterine contractions that forcefully expel the fetuses. Since oxytocin stimulates further contractions of the uterus, which is exquisitely sensitive to oxytocin at the end of pregnancy, a positive feedback loop is activated. The neural pathway that drives oxytocin neurons via a brainstem relay has been partially characterised, and involves A2 noradrenergic cells in the brainstem. Until close to term the responsiveness of oxytocin neurons is restrained by neuroactive steroid metabolites of progesterone that potentiate GABA inhibitory mechanisms. As parturition approaches, and this inhibition fades as progesterone secretion collapses, a central opioid inhibitory mechanism is activated that restrains the excitation of oxytocin cells by brainstem inputs. This opioid restraint is the predominant damper of oxytocin cells before and during parturition, limiting stimulation by extraneous stimuli, and perhaps facilitating optimal spacing of births and economical use of the store of oxytocin accumulated during pregnancy. During parturition, oxytocin cells increase their basal activity, and hence oxytocin secretion increases. In addition, the oxytocin cells discharge a burst of action potentials as each fetus passes through the birth canal. Each burst causes the secretion of a pulse of oxytocin, which sharply increases uterine tone; these bursts depend upon auto-stimulation by oxytocin released from the dendrites of the magnocellular neurons in the supraoptic and paraventricular nuclei. With the exception of the opioid mechanism that emerges to restrain oxytocin cell responsiveness, the behavior of oxytocin cells and their inputs in pregnancy and parturition is explicable from the effects of hormones of pregnancy (relaxin, estrogen, progesterone) on pre-existing mechanisms, leading through relative quiescence at term inter alia to net increase in oxytocin storage, and reduced auto-inhibition by nitric oxide generation. Cyto-architectonic changes in parturition, involving evident retraction of glial processes between oxytocin cells so they get closer together, are probably a response to oxytocin neuron activation rather than being essential for their patterns of firing in parturition.
Identification of novel neuropeptides and their cognate G protein-coupled receptors is essential for a better understanding of neuroendocrine regulations. The RFamide peptides represent a family of regulatory peptides that all possess the Arg-Phe-NH2 motif at their C-terminus. In mammals, seven RFamide peptides encoded by five distinct genes have been characterized. The present review focuses on 26RFa (or QRFP) which is the latest member identified in this family. 26RFa is present in all vertebrate phyla and its C-terminal domain (KGGFXFRF-NH2), which is responsible for its biological activity, has been fully conserved during evolution. 26RFa is the cognate ligand of the orphan G protein-coupled receptor GPR103 that is also present from fish to human. In all vertebrate species studied so far, 26RFa-expressing neurons show a discrete localization in the hypothalamus, suggesting important neuroendocrine activities for this RFamide peptide. Indeed, 26RFa plays a crucial role in the control of feeding behavior in mammals, birds and fish. In addition, 26RFa up-regulates the gonadotropic axis in mammals and fish. Finally, evidence that the 26RFa/GPR103 system regulates steroidogenesis, bone formation, nociceptive transmission and arterial blood pressure has also been reported. Thus, 26RFa appears to act as a key neuropeptide in vertebrates controlling vital neuroendocrine functions. The pathophysiological implication of the 26RFa/GPR103 system in human is totally unknown and some fields of investigation are proposed.
The parathyroid hormone (PTH) family currently includes three peptides and three receptors. PTH regulates calcium homeostasis through bone and kidney PTH1 receptors. PTH-related peptide, probably also through PTH1 receptors, regulates skeletal, pancreatic, epidermal, and mammary gland differentiation and bladder and vascular smooth muscle relaxation and has a CNS role that is under investigation. Tuberoinfundibular peptide of 39 residues (TIP39) was recently purified from bovine hypothalamus based on selective PTH2 receptor activation. PTH2 receptor expression is greatest in the CNS, where it is concentrated in limbic, hypothalamic, and sensory areas, especially hypothalamic periventricular neurons, nerve terminals in the median eminence, superficial layers of the spinal cord dorsal horn, and the caudal part of the sensory trigeminal nucleus. It is also present in a number of endocrine cells. Thus TIP39 and PTH2 receptor-influenced functions may range from pituitary and pancreatic hormone release to pain perception. A third PTH-recognizing receptor has been found in zebrafish.
All the classes of hormonal steroids physiologically produced in the body (androgens, estrogens, progestagens, and corticosteroids) are able to exert important effects on the brain, but the mechanisms of their actions are not always well understood. Steroids may interact with intracellular receptors to activate the genome, but some of their effects are probably extragenomic and involve interactions with cellular membranes. Moreover, not all the steroids act always in their native molecular form; a large group of them must actually be transformed into "active" metabolites. This may occur at the level of their respective target structures. For example, androgens are metabolized in the brain into estrogens and into 5 alpha-reduced androgens, like 5 alpha-androstan-17 beta-ol-3-one (dihydrotestosterone; DHT) and 5 alpha-androstan-3 alpha, 17 beta-diol (3 alpha-diol). Progesterone, and possibly corticosteroids, may also be transformed into their corresponding 5 alpha-reduced metabolites. Also the cellular target (neurons and/or glial cells) of the hormonal steroids in the brain is not always clear. This review analyzes in detail one of the two major enzymatic systems that transform steroids in the brain, namely the 5 alpha-reductase-3 alpha-(3 beta)-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase pathway. An active 5 alpha-reductase-3 alpha-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase system is widely distributed in practically all CNS structures in all phases of development. In the brain, this enzymatic system is not regulated by castration or sex steroid administration; furthermore, neural inputs seem to be ineffective at the hypothalamic level. A recent interesting finding is the presence of high concentrations of the 5 alpha-reductase in the white matter. This probably is due to the fact that the white matter is particularly rich in myelin membranes, with which the enzymatic activity appears to be associated. An active 5 alpha-reductase activity has also been shown to be present in peripheral myelinated nerves. The localization in myelin membranes may suggest a possible involvement of 5 alpha-reduced metabolites of the different steroids in the process of myelination. The presence of the 5 alpha-reductase was analyzed in neurons, astrocytes, and oligodendrocytes isolated from the brains of male rats, as well as in neurons and glial cells grown in culture. Neurons appear to be more active than glial cells in converting testosterone into DHT. Only neurons possess aromatase activity.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 400 WORDS)
One of the classic characteristics of the human stress response is the wide inter-individual variation. Although there is much current interest in the genetic and environmental contributions to these differences, studies on human subject have been sparse and characterised by methodological problems. The major factor that is rarely taken into account is the intrinsic rhythmicity of hypothalamo-pituitary-adrenal activity, not simply the classic diurnal variation but also the endogenous pulsatility which is similar to, but much less well recognized than, the rhythms found within the reproductive and growth hormone axes. In this review we propose some novel ideas relating to the importance of pulsatility both for the design of human stress-response studies and for their interpretation as well as implications for our understanding of disease.
This article provides an overview of hypothalamic and pituitary alterations in brain trauma, including the incidence of hypothalamic-pituitary damage, injury mechanisms, features of the hypothalamic-pituitary defects, and major hypothalamic-pituitary disturbances in brain trauma. While hypothalamic-pituitary lesions have been commonly described at postmortem examination, only a limited number of clinical cases of traumatic hypothalamic-pituitary dysfunction have been reported, probably because head injury of sufficient severity to cause hypothalamic and pituitary damage usually leads to early death. With the improvement in rescue measures, an increasing number of severely head-injured patients with hypothalamic-pituitary dysfunction will survive to be seen by clinicians. Patterns of endocrine abnormalities following brain trauma vary depending on whether the injury site is in the hypothalamus, the anterior or posterior pituitary, or the upper or lower portion of the pituitary stalk. Injury predominantly to the hypothalamus can produce dissociated ACTH-cortisol levels with no response to insulin-induced hypoglycemia and a limited or failed metopirone test, hypothyroxinemia with a preserved thyroid-stimulating hormone response to thyrotropin-releasing hormone, low gonadotropin levels with a normal response to gonadotropin-releasing hormone, a variable growth hormone (GH) level with a paradoxical rise in GH after glucose loading, hyperprolactinemia, the syndrome of inappropriate ADH secretion (SIADH), temporary or permanent diabetes insipidus (DI), disturbed glucose metabolism, and loss of body temperature control. Severe damage to the lower pituitary stalk or anterior lobe can cause low basal levels of all anterior pituitary hormones and eliminate responses to their releasing factors. Only a few cases showed typical features of hypothalamic or pituitary dysfunction. Most severe injuries are sufficient to damage both structures and produce a mixed endocrine picture. Increased intracranial pressure, which releases vasopressin by altering normal hypothalamic anatomy, may represent a unique type of stress to neuroendocrine systems and may contribute to adrenal secretion by a mechanism that requires intact brainstem function. Endocrine function should be monitored in brain-injured patients with basilar skull fractures and protracted posttraumatic amnesia, and patients with SIADH or DI should be closely monitored for other endocrine abnormalities.
Excitatory amino acid neurotransmission is an essential component of the neuroendocrine transmission line that regulates anterior pituitary luteinizing hormone (LH) and follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) secretion. Excitatory amino acids (EAAs), such as glutamate and aspartate, are found in large concentrations in presynaptic boutons of a variety of important hypothalamic nuclei, including the arcuate nucleus, the suprachiasmatic nucleus, the supraoptic nucleus, the paraventricular nucleus, and the preoptic area. EAA receptors can be divided into two broad groups, namely, ionotropic and metabotropic receptors. Ionotropic receptors are subdivided into NMDA (N-methyl-D-aspartate), kainate, and AMPA (DL-alpha-amino-3-hydroxy-5-methyl-4-isoxazole propionic acid) receptors. Their main mode of action is by the modulation of Na+, K+, and Ca2+ ion channels. Metabotropic receptors, on the other hand, act by a G-protein-stimulated release of intracellular Ca2+ or modulation of adenylate cyclase activity. The different EAA receptor subtypes are found in a variety of areas of the hypothalamus and the brain. In a variety of species, the administration of glutamate, NMDA, or kainate leads to LH release mediated through the stimulation of hypothalamic gonadotropin hormone-releasing hormone (GnRH) release. The major site of NMDA action appears to be the preoptic area--where GnRH cell bodies reside. AMPA and kainate appear to act primarily at the arcuate nucleus/median eminence, the site of GnRH nerve terminals. NMDA may also act upon noradrenergic neurons in the locus coeruleus to influence hypothalamic GnRH release. The steroid-induced LH surge in ovariectomized animals and the preovulatory surge of LH in cycling animals and in pregnant mare's serum gonadotropic-primed animals are blocked by the NMDA antagonist MK801 and the AMPA/kainate antagonist DNQX. MK801 also suppressed FSH surges in most instances, whereas DNQX had no effect on FSH surges. In the ovariectomized female rat, both the NMDA antagonist AP5 and the AMPA/kainate antagonist DNQX, lowered mean LH levels, LH pulse amplitude, and LH pulse frequency. Activation of NMDA receptors advanced the time of vaginal opening in the immature female rat, while kainate and DNQX were without effect. Gonadal steroid removal (castration) did not alter NMDA receptor levels or affinity in the hypothalamus of female or male rats. Likewise, steroid replacement to castrate rats did not affect hypothalamic NMDA receptor levels or NMDA R1 mRNA levels. Similarly, NMDA and kainate receptor levels in the hypothalamus did not change during the time of puberty in the female rat. In contrast, AMPA receptor (GluR1) immunoreactive levels in the magnocellular preoptic area (mPOA), the arcuate nucleus (ARC), and the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN) were found to be markedly elevated during the time of the LH surge in estradiol-progesterone-treated castrate rats compared to those of the vehicle-only-treated castrate rat. The release rates of glutamate and aspartate in the POA were found to be significantly elevated during the steroid-induced LH surge in the ovariectomized adult rat.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 400 WORDS)
Maintenance of adequate levels of response of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis during chronic stress is important for survival. Three basic patterns of response can be identified depending on the type of stress: (a) desensitization of ACTH responses to the sustained stimulus, but hyperresponsiveness to a novel stress despite elevated plasma glucocorticoid levels, as occurs in physical-psychological paradigms; (b) no desensitization of ACTH response to the repeated stimulus and hyperresponsiveness to a novel stress, as occurs during repeated painful stress and insulin hypoglycemia; and (c) small and transient increases in ACTH, but sustained elevations of plasma corticosterone and diminished ACTH responses. The level of response of the pituitary corticotroph is determined by differential regulation of the hypothalamic regulators, corticotropin-releasing hormone (CRH) and vasopressin (VP), and the sensitivity of the negative glucocorticoid feedback. While osmotic stimulation increases VP expression in magnocellular neurons of the paraventricular (PVN) and supraoptic nuclei of the hypothalamus, chronic stress paradigms with high pituitary responsiveness are associated with activation of CRH and CRH/VP parvicellular neurons of the PVN, predominantly of the VP-containing population. While moderate increase of CRH output is important for stimulation of POMC transcription, the increase of the VP:CRH secretion ratio appears to be important in maintaining the secretory capacity of the pituitary corticotroph during chronic stimulation. Decreased sensitivity of the glucocorticoid feedback, probably due to interaction of glucocorticoid receptors with transcription factors induced by CRH and VP, is critical for the maintenance of ACTH responses in the presence of elevated plasma glucocorticoid levels during chronic stress. Although both CRH and VP receptors are activated and undergo regulatory variations during chronic stress, only the changes in VP receptor levels are parallel to the changes in pituitary ACTH responsiveness. The inhibitory effect of chronic osmotic stimulation on ACTH secretion in spite of high circulating levels of VP is probably the result of diminished activity of parvicellular PVN neurons and downregulation of pituitary VP receptors. Although the exact interaction between regulatory factors and the molecular mechanisms controlling the sensitivity of the corticotroph during adaptation to chronic stress remain to be determined, it is clear that regulation of the proportional secretion of CRH and VP in the PVN, modulation of pituitary VP receptors, and the sensitivity to feedback inhibition play a critical role.
Seasonal changes in the brain of songbirds are one of the most dramatic examples of naturally occurring neuroplasticity that have been described in any vertebrate species. In males of temperate-zone songbird species, the volumes of several telencephalic nuclei that control song behavior are significantly larger in the spring than in the fall. These increases in volume are correlated with high rates of singing and high concentrations of testosterone in the plasma. Several song nuclei express either androgen receptors or estrogen receptors, therefore it is possible that testosterone acting via estrogenic or androgenic metabolites regulates song behavior by seasonally modulating the morphology of these song control nuclei. However, the causal links among these variables have not been established. Dissociations among high concentrations of testosterone, enlarged song nuclei, and high rates of singing behavior have been observed. Singing behavior itself can promote cellular changes associated with increases in the volume of the song control nuclei. Also, testosterone may stimulate song behavior by acting in brain regions outside of the song control system such as in the preoptic area or in catecholamine cell groups in the brainstem. Thus testosterone effects on neuroplasticity in the song system may be indirect in that behavioral activity stimulated by testosterone acting in sites that promote male sexual behavior could in turn promote morphological changes in the song system.
Estradiol plays a pivotal role in the control of GnRH neuronal function, hence female reproduction. A series of recent studies in our laboratory indicate that rapid excitatory actions of estradiol directly modify GnRH neuronal activity in primate GnRH neurons through GPR30 and STX-sensitive receptors. Similar rapid direct actions of estradiol through estrogen receptor beta are also described in mouse GnRH neurons. In this review, we propose two novel hypotheses as a possible physiological role of estradiol in primates. First, while ovarian estradiol initiates the preovulatory GnRH surge through interneurons expressing estrogen receptor alpha, rapid direct membrane-initiated action of estradiol may play a role in sustaining GnRH surge release for many hours. Second, locally produced neuroestrogens may contribute to pulsatile GnRH release. Either way, estradiol synthesized in interneurons in the hypothalamus may play a significant role in the control of the GnRH surge and/or pulsatility of GnRH release.
The recent discovery that an additional estrogen receptor (ERbeta) subtype is present in many rat, mouse, and human tissues has advanced our understanding of the mechanisms underlying estrogen signalling. Ligand-binding experiments have shown specific binding of 17beta-estradiol by ERbeta with an affinity similar to that of ERalpha. The rat tissue distribution and/or the relative level of ERalpha and ERbeta expression seems to be quite different, i.e., moderate to high expression in uterus, testis, pituitary, ovary, kidney, epididymis, and adrenal for ERalpha and prostate, ovary, lung, bladder, brain, bone, uterus, and testis for ERbeta. Within the same organ it often appears that the ER subtypes are expressed in different cell types, supporting the hypothesis that the ER's may have different biological functions. The cell type-specific expression of ERalpha and ERbeta in rat prostate, testis, uterus, ovary, and brain and the distribution of ERbeta mRNA in the ERalpha knock-out mouse brain are discussed. The discovery of ERbeta suggests the existence of two previously unrecognized pathways of estrogen signalling; via the ERbeta subtype in tissues exclusively expressing this subtype and via the formation of heterodimers in tissues expressing both ER subtypes. The existence of two ER subtypes, their differential expression pattern, and different actions on certain response elements could provide explanations for the striking species-, cell-, and promoter-specific actions of estrogens and antiestrogens. The challenge for the future is to unravel the detailed physiological role of each subtype and to use this knowledge to develop the next generation of ER-targeted drugs with improved therapeutic profiles in the treatment or prevention of osteoporosis, cardiovascular system disorders, Alzheimer's disease, breast cancer, and disorders of the urogenital tract.
The nigrostriatal dopamine system comprises the dopaminergic neurons located in the ventral midbrain, their axonal connections to the forebrain, and their direct cellular target cells in the striatal complex, i.e. GABAergic neurons. The major function of the nigrostriatal dopaminergic unit is the coordination and fine tuning of motor functions at the extrapyramidal level. Numerous biologically active factors including different types of growth factors (neurotrophins, members of the TGFbeta family, IGFs) and peptide/steroid hormones have been identified in the past to be implicated in the regulation of developmental aspects of this neural system. Some of these developmentally active determinants have in addition been found to play a crucial role in the mediation of neuroprotection concerning dopaminergic neurons. Estrogen was identified as such a compound interfering with embryonic neuronal differentiation and cell survival. The physiological mechanisms underlying these effects are very complex and include interactions with other developmental signals (growth factors), inflammatory processes as well as apoptotic events, but also require the activation of nonneuronal cells such as astrocytes. It appears that estrogen is assuming control over or at least influences a multitude of developmental and protective cellular mechanisms rather than taking over the part of a singular protagonist.
This review focuses on the effects of estrogens upon the cerebellum, a brain region long ignored as a site of estrogen action. Highlighted are the diverse effects of estradiol within the cerebellum, emphasizing the importance of estradiol signaling in cerebellar development, modulation of synaptic neurotransmission in the adult, and the potential influence of estrogens on various health and disease states. We also provide new data, consistent with previous studies, in which locally synthesized estradiol modulates cerebellar glutamatergic neurotransmission, providing one underlying mechanism by which the actions of estradiol can affect this brain region.
Estrogen elicits a selective enhancement of the growth and differentiation of axons and dendrites (neurites) in the developing brain. Widespread colocalization of estrogen and neurotrophin receptors (trk) within estrogen and neurotrophin targets, including neurons of the cerebral cortex, sensory ganglia, and PC12 cells, has been shown to result in differential and reciprocal transcriptional regulation of these receptors by their ligands. In addition, estrogen and neurotrophin receptor coexpression leads to convergence or cross-coupling of their signaling pathways, particularly at the level of the mitogen-activated protein (MAP) kinase cascade. 17beta-Estradiol elicits rapid (within 5-15 min) and sustained (at least 2 h) tyrosine phosphorylation and activation of the MAP kinases, extracellular-signal regulated kinase (ERK)1, and ERK2, which is successfully inhibited by the MAP kinase/ERK kinase 1 inhibitor PD98059, but not by the estrogen receptor (ER) antagonist ICI 182,780 and also does not appear to result from estradiol-induced activation of trk. Furthermore, the ability of estradiol to phosphorylate ERK persists even in ER-alpha knockout mice, implicating other estrogen receptors such as ER-beta in these actions of estradiol. The existence of an estrogen receptor-containing, multimeric complex consisting of hsp90, src, and B-Raf also suggests a direct link between the estrogen receptor and the MAP kinase signaling cascade. Collectively, these novel findings, coupled with our growing understanding of additional signaling substrates utilized by estrogen, provide alternative mechanisms for estrogen action in the developing brain which could explain not only some of the very rapid effects of estrogen, but also the ability of estrogen and neurotrophins to regulate the same broad array of cytoskeletal and growth-associated genes involved in neurite growth and differentiation. This review expands the usually restrictive view of estrogen action in the brain beyond the confines of sexual differentiation and reproductive neuroendocrine function. It considers the much broader question of estrogen as a neural growth factor with important influences on the development, survival, plasticity, regeneration, and aging of the mammalian brain and supports the view that the estrogen receptor is not only a ligand-induced transcriptional enhancer but also a mediator of rapid, nongenomic events.
About 10 years ago, a sexually differentiated nucleus was identified in the preoptic area (POA) of the Japanese quail in the course of studies analyzing the dimorphic mechanisms involved in the activation of sexual behavior. In this species, males exposed to testosterone copulate while females never show this masculine behavior. The present paper reviews anatomical, neurochemical, and functional data that have been collected since that time about the quail dimorphic nucleus. The medial preoptic nucleus (POM) is significantly larger in adult male than in adult female quail. Its volume is also steroid-sensitive in adulthood: it decreases when circulating levels of testosterone are low (castration, exposure to short-days) and it increases when testosterone levels are high (treatment with testosterone, exposure to long-days). The POM is a necessary and sufficient site of steroid action for the activation of male copulatory behavior. The volumetric difference of the POM results from a difference in the adult hormonal milieu of males and females (activational effect) and is not affected by embryonic treatments that permanently modify sexual behavior (no organizational effects on POM). In contrast, the size of neurons in the dorsolateral part of POM appears to be irreversibly affected by embryonic steroids and this feature is therefore a better correlate of the behavioral sex difference. The POM is characterized by the presence of a wide variety of neurotransmitters, neuropeptides, and receptors. It can, in addition, be specifically distinguished from the surrounding POA by the presence of aromatase-immunoreactive cells, by a high density of alpha 2-adrenergic receptors, and by a dense vasotocinergic innervation. Some of these neurochemical markers of the dimorphic nucleus are themselves modulated by steroids. In particular, the aromatase-immunoreactive cells of the lateral POM appear to be a key target for steroids in the activation of male copulatory behavior. The POM is bidirectionally connected to many brain areas. It receives inputs from a variety of sensory areas and from a number of regulatory areas (e.g., catecholaminergic cell groups). This nucleus also sends outputs to "neurovegetative" centers and to brain regions directly connected to the motor pathways. These connections fully support the role of the POM as an integrative center for the control of male sexual behavior. The available data indicate that there is a high degree of steroid-induced neuronal plasticity in the POM, including changes in neuronal function, in protein synthesis, and in specific inputs. These phenomena can easily be studied in the POM because they are of a large magnitude, they are localized in a specific brain site, and they develop rapidly after exposure to steroids. They are also directly related to a clear functional output, the activation of male sexual behavior. The quail POM therefore constitutes an exceptional model for the analysis of steroid-induced brain plasticity in a functionally relevant context.
Dysregulation of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis is associated with vulnerability to a number of psychiatric diseases including major depression, bipolar disorder, anxiety disorders, and schizophrenia. The HPA axis is activated in response to stress and in a characteristic circadian rhythm, resulting in the release of glucocorticoid hormones from the adrenal cortex. These hormones act on peripheral target tissues to restore homeostasis to the organism and engage glucocorticoid receptors (GR) in the CNS to control the intensity and duration of the stress response. Alterations in this glucocorticoid sensing system may underlie the HPA axis changes associated with psychiatric disorders. Recently, a number of lines of mice with genetically altered GR signaling in the CNS have been generated to address this hypothesis. Here, we summarize findings from new genetic models that indicate a critical role for GR signaling in the CNS in normal regulation of the HPA axis and behavioral/emotional stability.
It is well known that many of the actions of estrogens in the central nervous system are mediated via intracellular receptor/transcription factors that interact with steroid response elements on target genes. However, there now exists compelling evidence for membrane estrogen receptors in hypothalamic and other brain neurons. But, it is not well understood how estrogens signal via membrane receptors, and how these signals impact not only membrane excitability but also gene transcription in neurons. Indeed, it has been known for sometime that estrogens can rapidly alter neuronal activity within seconds, indicating that some cellular effects can occur via membrane delimited events. In addition, estrogens can affect second messenger systems including calcium mobilization and a plethora of kinases to alter cell signaling. Therefore, this review will consider our current knowledge of rapid membrane-initiated and intracellular signaling by estrogens in the hypothalamus, the nature of receptors involved and how they contribute to homeostatic functions.
Environmental stimuli that signal real or potential threats to homeostasis lead to glucocorticoid secretion by the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenocortical (HPA) axis. Glucocorticoids promote energy redistribution and are critical for survival and adaptation. This adaptation requires the integration of multiple systems and engages key limbic-neuroendocrine circuits. Consequently, glucocorticoids have profound effects on synaptic physiology, circuit regulation of stress responsiveness, and, ultimately, behavior. While glucocorticoids initiate adaptive processes that generate energy for coping, prolonged or inappropriate glucocorticoid secretion becomes deleterious. Inappropriate processing of stressful information may lead to energetic drive that does not match environmental demand, resulting in risk factors for pathology. Thus, dysregulation of the HPA axis may promote stress-related illnesses (e.g. depression, PTSD). This review summarizes the latest developments in central glucocorticoid actions on synaptic, neuroendocrine, and behavioral regulation. Additionally, these findings will be discussed in terms of the energetic integration of stress and the importance of context-specific regulation of glucocorticoids.
Androgens have a variety of protective and therapeutic effects in both the central and peripheral nervous systems. Here we review these effects as they related specifically to spinal and cranial motoneurons. Early in development, androgens are critical for the formation of important neuromuscular sex differences, decreasing the magnitude of normally occurring cell death in select motoneuron populations. Throughout the lifespan, androgens also protect against motoneuron death caused by axonal injury. Surviving motoneurons also display regressive changes to their neurites as a result of both direct axonal injury and loss of neighboring motoneurons. Androgen treatment enhances the ability of motoneurons to recover from these regressive changes and regenerate both axons and dendrites, restoring normal neuromuscular function. Androgens exert these protective effects by acting through a variety of molecular pathways. Recent work has begun to examine how androgen treatment can interact with other treatment strategies in promoting recovery from motoneuron injury.
The discovery of the adipocyte-produced hormone leptin has greatly changed the field of obesity research and our understanding of energy homeostasis. It is now accepted that leptin is the afferent loop informing the hypothalamus about the state of fat stores, with hypothalamic efferents regulating appetite and energy expenditure. In addition, leptin has a role as a metabolic adaptator in overweight and fasting states. New and previously unsuspected neuroendocrine roles have emerged for leptin. In reproduction, leptin is implicated in fertility regulation, and it is a permissive factor for puberty. Relevant gender-based differences in leptin levels exist, with higher levels in women at birth, which persist throughout life. In adult life, there is experimental evidence that leptin is a permissive factor for the ovarian cycle, with a regulatory role exerted at the hypothalamic, pituitary, and gonadal levels, and with unexplained changes in pregnancy and postpartum. Leptin is present in human milk and may play a role in the adaptive responses of the newborn. Leptin plays a role in the neuroendocrine control of GH secretion, through a complex interaction at hypothalamic levels with GHRH and somatostatin. Leptin participates in the expression of CRH in the hypothalamus, interacts at the adrenal level with ACTH, and is regulated by glucocorticoids. Since leptin and cortisol show an inverse circadian rhythm, it has been suggested that a regulatory feedback is present. Finally, regulatory actions on TRH-TSH and PRL secretion have been found. Thus leptin reports the state of fat stores to the hypothalamus and other neuroendocrine areas, and the neuroendocrine systems adapt their function to the current status of energy homeostasis and fat stores.
The biological activity of androgens is thought to occur predominantly through binding to intracellular androgen-receptors, a member of the nuclear receptor family, that interact with specific nucleotide sequences to alter gene expression. This genomic-androgen effect typically takes at least more than half an hour. In contrast, the rapid or non-genomic actions of androgens are manifested within in seconds to few minutes. This rapid effect of androgens are manifold, ranging from activation of G-protein coupled membrane androgen-receptors or sex hormone-binding globulin receptors, stimulation of different protein kinases, to direct modulation of voltage- and ligand gated ion-channels and transporters. The physiological relevance of these non-genomic androgen actions has not yet been determined in detail. However, it may contribute to modulate several second messenger systems or transcription factors, which suggests a cross-talk between the fast non-genomic and the slow genomic pathway of androgens. This review will focus on the rapid effects of androgens on cell surface and cytoplasmic level.
Previous work in the endocrine and neuroendocrine fields has viewed the androgen receptor (AR) as a transcription factor activated by testosterone or one of its many metabolites. The bound AR acts as transcription regulatory element by binding to specific DNA response elements in target gene promoters, causing activation or repression of transcription and subsequently protein synthesis. Over the past two decades evidence at the cellular and organismal level has accumulated to implicate rapid responses to androgens, dependent or independent of the AR. Androgen's rapid time course of action; its effects in the absence or inhibition of the cellular machinery necessary for transcription/translation; and in the absence of translocation to the nucleus suggest a method of androgen action not initially dependent on genomic mechanisms (i.e. non-genomic in nature). In the present paper, the non-genomic effects of androgens are reviewed, along with a discussion of the possible role non-genomic androgen actions have on animal physiology and behavior.
Organohalogen compounds are global environmental pollutants. They are highly persistent, bioaccumulative, and cause adverse effects in humans and wildlife. Because of the widespread use of these organohalogens in household items and consumer products, indoor contamination may be a significant source of human exposure, especially for children. One significant concern with regard to health effects associated with exposure to organohalogens is endocrine disruption. This review focuses on PCBs and PBDEs as old and new organohalogens, respectively, and their effects on two neuroendocrine systems; thyroid hormones and the arginine vasopressin system (AVP). Regarding neuroendocrine effects of organohalogens, there is considerable information on the thyroid system as a target and evidence is now accumulating that the AVP system and associated functions are also susceptible to disruption. AVP-mediated functions such as osmoregulation, cardiovascular function as well as social behavior, sexual function and learning/memory are discussed. For both thyroid and AVP systems, the timing of exposure seems to play a major role in the outcome of adverse effects. The mechanism of organohalogen action is well understood for the thyroid system. In comparison, this aspect is understudied in the AVP system but some similarities in neural processes, shown to be targeted by these pollutants, serve as promising possibilities for study. One challenge in understanding modes of action within neuroendocrine systems is their complexity stemming, in part, from interdependent levels of organization. Further, because of the interplay between neuroendocrine and neural functions and behavior, further investigation into organohalogen-mediated effects is warranted and may yield insights with wider scope. Indeed, the current literature provides scattered evidence regarding the role of organohalogen-induced neuroendocrine disruption in the neuroplasticity related to both learning functions and brain structure but future studies are needed to establish the role of endocrine disruption in nervous system function and development.
Brain development is a complex and dynamic process, and many environmental factors have been found to influence the normal development of neural pathways. Cumulative evidence suggests that metabolic hormones that regulate the hypothalamic circuits that control energy homeostasis function in much the same way that sex steroids act on sexually dimorphic circuits. For example, although the effects of the adipocyte-derived hormone leptin were originally thought to be limited to the neural control of energy homeostasis in adult animals, it is now becoming increasingly clear that leptin can also determine patterns of neurogenesis, axon growth, and synaptic plasticity in the developing hypothalamus. More recent studies have also extended the role of the metabolic hormones ghrelin and insulin in various aspects of brain development. Examining how metabolic hormones control hypothalamic development will help our understanding of the developmental origin of adult metabolic diseases and, hopefully, improve our ability to predict adverse outcomes.
Over the years, our ideas about estrogen signaling have greatly expanded. In addition to estradiol having direct nuclear actions that mediate transcription and translation, more recent experiments have demonstrated membrane-initiated signaling. Both direct nuclear and estradiol membrane signaling can be mediated by the classical estrogen receptors, ERα and ERβ, which are two of the numerous putative membrane estrogen receptors. Thus far, however, only ERα has been shown to play a prominent role in regulating female reproduction and sexual behavior. Because ERα is a ligand-gated transcription factor and not a typical membrane receptor, trafficking to the cell membrane requires post-translational modifications. Two necessary modifications are palmitoylation and association with caveolins, a family of scaffolding proteins. In addition to their role in trafficking, caveolin proteins also serve to determine ERα interactions with metabotropic glutamate receptors (mGluRs). It is through these complexes that ERα, which cannot by itself activate G proteins, is able to initiate intracellular signaling. Various combinations of ERα-mGluR interactions have been demonstrated throughout the nervous system from hippocampus to striatum to hypothalamus to dorsal root ganglion (DRG) in both neurons and astrocytes. These combinations of ER and mGluR allow estradiol to have both facilitative and inhibitory actions in neurons. In hypothalamic astrocytes, the estradiol-mediated release of intracellular calcium stores regulating neurosteroid synthesis requires ERα-mGluR1a interaction. In terms of estradiol regulation of female sexual receptivity, activation of ERα-mGluR1a signaling complex leads to the release of neurotransmitters and alteration of neuronal morphology. This review will examine estradiol membrane signaling (EMS) activating a limbic-hypothalamic lordosis regulating circuit, which involves ERα trafficking, internalization, and modifications of neuronal morphology in a circuit that underlies female sexual receptivity.
Risk for Alzheimer's disease (AD) is associated with age-related loss of sex steroid hormones in both women and men. In post-menopausal women, the precipitous depletion of estrogens and progestogens is hypothesized to increase susceptibility to AD pathogenesis, a concept largely supported by epidemiological evidence but refuted by some clinical findings. Experimental evidence suggests that estrogens have numerous neuroprotective actions relevant to prevention of AD, in particular promotion of neuron viability and reduction of beta-amyloid accumulation, a critical factor in the initiation and progression of AD. Recent findings suggest neural responsiveness to estrogen can diminish with age, reducing neuroprotective actions of estrogen and, consequently, potentially limiting the utility of hormone therapies in aged women. In addition, estrogen neuroprotective actions are also modulated by progestogens. Specifically, continuous progestogen exposure is associated with inhibition of estrogen actions whereas cyclic delivery of progestogens may enhance neural benefits of estrogen. In recent years, emerging literature has begun to elucidate a parallel relationship of sex steroid hormones and AD risk in men. Normal age-related testosterone loss in men is associated with increased risk to several diseases including AD. Like estrogen, testosterone has been established as an endogenous neuroprotective factor that not only increases neuronal resilience against AD-related insults, but also reduces beta-amyloid accumulation. Androgen neuroprotective effects are mediated both directly by activation of androgen pathways and indirectly by aromatization to estradiol and initiation of protective estrogen signaling mechanisms. The successful use of hormone therapies in aging men and women to delay, prevent, and or treat AD will require additional research to optimize key parameters of hormone therapy and may benefit from the continuing development of selective estrogen and androgen receptor modulators.
Geoffrey Wingfield Harris' demonstration of hypothalamic hormones regulating pituitary function led to their structural identification and therapeutic utilization in a wide spectrum of diseases. Amongst these, Gonadotropin Releasing Hormone (GnRH) and its analogs are widely employed in modulating gonadotropin and sex steroid secretion to treat infertility, precocious puberty and many hormone-dependent diseases including endometriosis, uterine fibroids and prostatic cancer. While these effects are all mediated via modulation of the pituitary gonadotrope GnRH receptor and the G(q) signaling pathway, it has become increasingly apparent that GnRH regulates many extrapituitary cells in the nervous system and periphery. This review focuses on two such examples, namely GnRH analog effects on reproductive behaviors and GnRH analog effects on the inhibition of cancer cell growth. For both effects the relative activities of a range of GnRH analogs is distinctly different from their effects on the pituitary gonadotrope and different signaling pathways are utilized. As there is only a single functional GnRH receptor type in man we have proposed that the GnRH receptor can assume different conformations which have different selectivity for GnRH analogs and intracellular signaling proteins complexes. This ligand-induced selective-signaling recruits certain pathways while by-passing others and has implications in developing more selective GnRH analogs for highly specific therapeutic intervention.
The development and functioning of the nervous system are known to be influenced in various ways by endocrine signals. In turn, neural tissue modulates internal homeostasis, not only by electrical signaling, but also by regulating the release of endocrine messengers. However, the mechanisms underlying these processes are not fully understood. Recent evidence indicates that glia may play a significant role in the link between the endocrine and nervous systems. Glial cells express nuclear receptors for both thyroid and steroid hormones and participate in the metabolism of these hormones, resulting in the production of neuroactive metabolites. Furthermore, glial cells synthesize endogenous neuroactive steroids, including pregnenolone and progesterone, from cholesterol. Thyroid hormones, glucocorticoids, gonadal steroids, and neurosteroids affect myelinization by acting on oligodendroglia and modulate astroglia morphology, differentiation, and gene expression in different brain areas. Under physiological conditions, hormonal effects on glia may have important consequences for neuronal development, metabolism, and activity and for the formation and plasticity of synaptic connections. In addition, glucocorticoids, gonadal steroids, and neurosteroids may affect regenerative processes in neurons by modulating glial responses after injury. These effects include the activation of microglia, which is regulated by glucocorticoids, and the proliferation of reactive astroglia, which is regulated by gonadal hormones and neurosteroids. Glial cells are also involved in the modulation of hormone release. Pituicytes and microglia in the neurohypophysis may influence hormonal secretion by regulating neurovascular contacts, while astroglia in the hypothalamus regulate the number of synaptic inputs to specific neuronal populations involved in pituitary hormone release, such as LHRH and oxytocinergic neurons. Furthermore, tanycytes and astrocytes in the arcuate nucleus and median eminence release trophic factors that regulate hormone secretion by hypothalamic neurons.
The serotonin neurons of the dorsal and medial raphe nuclei project to all areas of the forebrain and play a key role in mood disorders. Hence, any loss or degeneration of serotonin neurons could have profound ramifications. In a monkey model of surgical menopause with hormone replacement and no neural injury, E and P decreased gene expression in the dorsal raphe nucleus of c-jun n-terminal kinase (JNK1) and kynurenine mono-oxygenase (KMO) that promote cell death. In concert, E and P increased gene expression of superoxide dismutase (SOD1), VEGF, and caspase inhibitory proteins that promote cellular resilience in the dorsal raphe nucleus. Subsequently, we showed that ovarian steroids inhibit pivotal genes in the caspase-dependent and caspase-independent pathways in laser-captured serotonin neurons including apoptosis activating factor (Apaf1), apoptosis-inducing factor (AIF) and second mitochondria-derived activator of caspases (Smac/Diablo). SOD1 was also increased specifically in laser-captured serotonin neurons. Examination of protein expression in the dorsal raphe block revealed that JNK1, phosphoJNK1, AIF and the translocation of AIF from the mitochondria to the nucleus decreased with hormone therapy, whereas pivotal execution proteins in the caspase pathway were unchanged. In addition, cyclins A, B, D1 and E were inhibited, which would prevent re-entry into the cell cycle and catastrophic death. These data indicated that in the absence of gross injury to the midbrain, ovarian steroids inhibit the caspase-independent pathway and cell cycle initiation in serotonin neurons. To determine if these molecular actions prevented cellular vulnerability or death, we examined DNA fragmentation in the dorsal raphe nucleus with the TUNEL assay (terminal deoxynucleotidyl transferase nick end labeling). Ovarian steroids significantly decreased the number of TUNEL-positive cells in the dorsal raphe. Moreover, TUNEL staining prominently colocalized with TPH immunostaining, a marker for serotonin neurons. In summary, ovarian steroids increase the cellular resilience of serotonin neurons and may prevent serotonin neuron death in women facing decades of life after menopause. The survival of serotonin neurons would support cognition and mental health.
In the traditional theory of steroid action, steroids bind to intracellular receptors and modulate nuclear transcription after translocation of steroid-receptor complexes into the nucleus. Due to similarities of molecular structure, specific receptors for steroids, vitamin D(3) derivatives, and thyroid hormone are considered to represent a superfamily of steroid receptors. While genomic steroid effects characterized by their delayed onset of action and their sensitivity to blockers of transcription and protein synthesis have been known for several decades, rapid actions of steroids have been more widely recognized and characterized in detail only recently. Rapid effects of steroids, thyroid hormones, and the steroid hormone metabolite of vitamin D(3), 1alpha, 25-dihydroxyvitamin D(3), on cellular signaling and function may be transmitted by specific membrane receptors. Binding sites in membranes have been characterized, exposing binding features compatible with an involvement in rapid steroid signaling. Characteristics of putative membrane receptors are completely distinct from intracellular steroid receptors, a fact which is further supported by the inability of classic steroid receptor antagonists to block nongenomic steroid actions. A putative progesterone membrane receptor has been cloned and functionally expressed with regard to progesterone binding. Development of drugs that specifically affect nongenomic action alone or even both modes of action may find applications in various, areas such as in the cardiovascular and central nervous systems and treatment of preterm labor, infertility, and electrolyte abnormalities.
Rapid, non-transcriptionally mediated, effects of glucocorticoids affect many behaviors as well as inhibition of function in the hypothalamo-pituitary-adrenal axis. In this short review, it is argued that the fast glucocorticoid actions which are mediated by membrane receptors are an ancient type of sterol/steroid-mediated effect, and that these may be the primordial glucocorticoid receptors. Although the fast feedback actions of the glucocorticoids enjoyed study in the middle of the last century, new results and the availability of new techniques suggest that it is again time for a concerted effort to be made to understand the mechanism(s) of these rapid effects.
Ligands for the nuclear receptor superfamily have at least two mechanisms of action: (a) classical transcriptional regulation of target genes (genomic mechanisms); and (b) non-genomic actions, which are initiated at the cell membrane, which could also impact transcription. Though transcriptional mechanisms are increasingly well understood, membrane-initiated actions of these ligands are incompletely understood. This has led to considerable debate over the physiological relevance of membrane-initiated actions of hormones versus genomic actions of hormones, with genomic actions predominating in the endocrine field. There is good evidence that the membrane-limited actions of hormones, particularly estrogens, involve the rapid activation of kinases and the release of calcium and that these are linked to physiologically relevant scenarios in the brain. We show evidence in this review, that membrane actions of estrogens, which activate these rapid signaling cascades, can also potentiate nuclear transcription in both the central nervous system and in non-neuronal cell lines. We present a theoretical scenario which can be used to understand this phenomenon. These signaling cascades may occur in parallel or in series but subsequently, converge at the modification of transcriptionally relevant molecules such as nuclear receptors and/or coactivators. In addition, other non-cognate hormones or neurotransmitters may also activate cascades to crosstalk with estrogen receptor-mediated transcription, though the relevance of this is less clear. The idea that coupling between membrane-initiated and genomic actions of hormones is a novel idea in neuroendocrinology and provides us with a unified view of hormone action in the central nervous system.
The nongenomic actions of thyroid hormone begin at receptors in the plasma membrane, mitochondria or cytoplasm. These receptors can share structural homologies with nuclear thyroid hormone receptors (TRs) that mediate transcriptional actions of T3, or have no homologies with TR, such as the plasma membrane receptor on integrin αvβ3. Nongenomic actions initiated at the plasma membrane by T4 via integrin αvβ3 can induce gene expression that affects angiogenesis and cell proliferation, therefore, both nongenomic and genomic effects can overlap in the nucleus. In the cytoplasm, a truncated TRα isoform mediates T4-dependent regulation of intracellular microfilament organization, contributing to cell and tissue structure. p30 TRα1 is another shortened TR isoform found at the plasma membrane that binds T3 and mediates nongenomic hormonal effects in bone cells. T3 and 3,5-diiodo-L-thyronine are important to the complex nongenomic regulation of cellular respiration in mitochondria. Thus, nongenomic actions expand the repertoire of cellular events controlled by thyroid hormone and can modulate TR-dependent nuclear events. Here, we review the experimental approaches required to define nongenomic actions of the hormone, enumerate the known nongenomic effects of the hormone and their molecular basis, and discuss the possible physiological or pathophysiological consequences of these actions.
All of the serotonin-producing neurons of the mammalian brain are located in 10 nuclei in the mid- and hindbrain regions. The cells of the rostal nuclei project to almost every area of the forebrain and regulate diverse neural processes from higher order functions in the prefrontal cortex such as integrative cognition and memory, to limbic system control of arousal and mood, to diencephalic functions such as pituitary hormone secretion, satiety, and sexual behavior. The more caudal serotonin neurons project to the spinal cord and interact with numerous autonomic and sensory systems. All of these neural functions are sensitive to the presence or absence of the ovarian hormones, estrogen and progesterone. We have shown that serotonin neurons in nonhuman primates contain estrogen receptor beta and progestin receptors. Thus, they are targets for ovarian steroids which in turn modify gene expression. Any change in serotoninergic neural function could be manifested by a change in any of the projection target systems and in this manner, serotonin neurons integrate steroid hormone information and partially transduce their action in the CNS. This article reviews the work conducted in this laboratory on the actions of estrogens and progestins in the serotonin neural system of nonhuman primates. Comparisons to results obtained in other laboratory animal models are made when available and limited clinical data are referenced. The ability of estrogens and progestins to alter the function of the serotonin neural system at various levels provides a cellular mechanism whereby ovarian hormones can impact cognition, mood or arousal, hormone secretion, pain, and other neural circuits.
This review highlights our investigations into the neuroprotective efficacy of estradiol and other estrogenic agents in a clinically relevant animal model of transient global ischemia, which causes selective, delayed death of hippocampal CA1 neurons and associated cognitive deficits. We find that estradiol rescues a significant number of CA1 pyramidal neurons that would otherwise die in response to global ischemia, and this is true when hormone is provided as a long-term pretreatment at physiological doses or as an acute treatment at the time of reperfusion. In addition to enhancing neuronal survival, both forms of estradiol treatment induce measurable cognitive benefit in young animals. Moreover, estradiol and estrogen analogs that do not bind classical nuclear estrogen receptors retain their neuroprotective efficacy in middle-aged females deprived of ovarian hormones for a prolonged duration (8weeks). Thus, non-feminizing estrogens may represent a new therapeutic approach for treating the neuronal damage associated with global ischemia.
Rapid, progestin actions initiated at the cell surface that are often nongenomic have been described in a variety of reproductive tissues, but until recently the identities of the membrane receptors mediating these nonclassical progestins actions remained unclear. Evidence has been obtained in the last 4-5 years for the involvement of two types of novel membrane proteins unrelated to nuclear steroid receptors, progesterone membrane receptors (mPRs) and progesterone receptor membrane component 1 (PGMRC1), in progestin signaling in several vertebrate reproductive tissues and in the brain. The mPRs, (M(W) approximately 40 kDa) initially discovered in fish ovaries, comprise at least three subtypes, alpha, beta and gamma and belong to the seven-transmembrane progesterone adiponectin Q receptor (PAQR) family. Both recombinant and wildtype mPRs display high affinity (K(d) approximately 5 nM), limited capacity, displaceable and specific progesterone binding. The mPRs are directly coupled to G proteins and typically activate pertussis-sensitive inhibitory G proteins (G(i)), to down-regulate adenylyl cyclase activity. Recent studies suggest the alpha subtype (mPRalpha) has important physiological functions in variety of reproductive tissues. The mPRalpha is an intermediary in progestin induction of oocyte maturation and stimulation of sperm hypermotility in fish. In mammals, the mPRalphas have been implicated in progesterone regulation of uterine function in humans and GnRH secretion in rodents. The single-transmembrane protein PGMRC1 (M(W) 26-28 kDa) was first purified from porcine livers and its cDNA was subsequently cloned from porcine smooth muscle cells and a variety of other tissues by different investigators. PGMRC1 and the closely-related PGMRC2 belong to the membrane-associated progesterone receptor (MAPR) family. The PGMRC1 protein displays moderately high binding affinity for progesterone which is 2- to 10-fold greater than that for testosterone and glucocorticoids, and also can bind to other molecules such as heme, cholesterol metabolites and proteins. The signal transduction pathways induced by binding of progesterone to PGMRC1 have not been described to date, although motifs for tyrosine kinase, kinase binding, SH2 and SH3 have been predicted from the amino acid sequence. Evidence has been obtained that PGMRC1 mediates the antiapoptotic affects of progesterone in rat granulosa cells. The PGMRC1 protein may also be an intermediary in the progesterone induction of the acrosome reaction in mammalian sperm. Despite these recent advances, many aspects of progestin signaling through these two families of novel membrane proteins remain unresolved. Biochemical characterization of the receptors has been hampered by rapid degradation of the partially purified proteins. A major technical challenge has been to express sufficient amounts of the recombinant receptors on the plasma membranes in eukaryotic systems to permit investigations of their progestin binding and signal transduction characteristics. Additional basic information on the molecular and cellular mechanisms by which mPRs and PGMRC1 interact with progestins, signal transductions pathways and other proteins will be required to establish a comprehensive model of nontraditional progestin actions mediated through these novel proteins.
The recent progress of research on the functions of pituitary adenylate cyclase activating polypeptide (PACAP), especially endocrine and neuroendocrine interactions, is described. Studies of the genes encoding the PACAP precursor and the type I PACAP receptor provide information on the control of PACAP gene expression and on the relationship between the structure of the receptor subtypes and the activation of various signal transduction pathways. The availability of specific antisera against PACAP and the type I PACAP receptor made it possible to examine their distributions in the brain and other tissues. Immunohistochemical studies and physiological studies with synthetic PACAP indicate that PACAP is a new type of hypophysiotropic hormone and also functions as a neurotransmitter, neuromodulator, and neurotrophic factor in the central nervous system. The abundance of PACAP and its type I receptors in the adrenal medulla and the results of studies with synthetic PACAP suggest that PACAP is a potent noncholinergic secretogue for catecholamines. PACAP and its receptors are also present in the pancreas and appear to play a regulatory role in insulin secretion at extremely low concentrations in a glucose-dependent manner. Immunohistochemical demonstration of PACAP and its receptors in the testicular spermatids at early stages suggests an important role of testicular PACAP in spermiogenesis. Together with its actions on pituitary gonadotropes, this suggests that it plays a key role in reproduction.
The steroid hormone, progesterone (P), modulates neuroendocrine functions in the central nervous system resulting in alterations in physiology and reproductive behavior in female mammals. A wide body of evidence indicates that these neural effects of P are predominantly mediated via their intracellular progestin receptors (PRs) functioning as "ligand-dependent" transcription factors in the steroid-sensitive neurons regulating genes and genomic networks. In addition to P, intracellular PRs can be activated by neurotransmitters, growth factors and cyclic nucleotides in a ligand-independent manner via crosstalk and convergence of pathways. Furthermore, recent studies indicate that rapid signaling events associated with membrane PRs and/or extra-nuclear, cytoplasmic PRs converge with classical PR activated pathways in neuroendocrine regulation of female reproductive behavior. The molecular mechanisms, by which multiple signaling pathways converge on PRs to modulate PR-dependent female reproductive behavior, are discussed in this review.
Alcohol stimulates the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis (HPA) through brain-based mechanisms in which endogenous corticotropin-releasing factor (CRF) plays a major role. This review first discusses the evidence for this role, as well as the possible importance of intermediates such as vasopressin, nitric oxide and catecholamines. We then illustrate the long-term influence exerted by alcohol on the HPA axis, such as the ability of a first exposure to this drug during adolescence, to permanently blunt neuroendocrine responses to subsequent exposure of the drug. In view of the role played by CRF in addiction, it is likely that a better understanding of the mechanisms through which this drug stimulates the HPA axis may lead to the development of new therapies used in the treatment of alcohol abuse, including clinically relevant CRF antagonists.