Rapid-signaling membrane estrogen receptors (mERs) and aromatase (Aro) are present throughout the central nervous system (CNS), enabling acute regulation of CNS estrogenic signaling. We previously reported that spinal membrane Aro (mAro) and mERa oligomerize (1). As their organizational relationship would likely influence functions of locally produced estrogens, we quantified the mAro and mERa that are physically associated and nonassociated in two functionally different regions of rat CNS: The spinal cord, which has predominantly neural functionalities, and the hypothalamus, which has both neural and endocrine capabilities. Quantitative immunoprecipitation (IP), coimmunoprecipitation, and Western blot analysis were used to quantify the associated and nonassociated subpopulations of mAro and mERa. Regardless of estrous-cycle stage, virtually allmArowas oligomerized with mERa in the spinal cord, whereas only;15%was oligomerized in the hypothalamus. The predominance of nonassociated mAro in the hypothalamus, in combination with findings that many hypothalamic Aro-immunoreactive neurons could be retrogradely labeled with peripherally injected Fluoro-Gold, suggests that a portion of hypothalamic estrogens is secreted, potentially regulating pituitary function. Moreover, circulating estrogens increased hypothalamic Aro activity (quantified by the tritiated water-release assay) in the absence of increased Aro protein, revealing nongenomic regulation of Aro activity in the mammalian CNS. The demonstrated presence of associated and nonassociated mAro and mERa subpopulations in the CNS suggests that their selective targeting could restore impaired estrogen-dependent CNS functionalities while minimizing unwanted effects. The full physiological ramifications of brain-secreted estrogens remain to be explored.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
Financial Support: This work was supported by National Institute on Drug Abuse Grant DA043774 (to A.R.G. and N.-J.L.) and by the Department of Neuroscience, University of Minnesota (to M.W.W.).