In the brain, estrogens have a variety of functions: they regulate sexual differentiation, sexual behavior, and neuronal activity and demonstrate neuroprotective actions. In neuronal tissue, genomic estrogen effects can be distinguished from rapid, non-genomic effects through cellular signal transduction. The genomic effects are mediated by nuclear estrogen receptors (ERα and ERβ), whereas the non-genomic effects are very likely to depend on membranous ERs. Estrogens are synthesized by aromatase, an enzyme that is expressed in various brain regions. A brain-specific promoter regulates the tissue-specific expression of the aromatase gene. The aromatase activity can rapidly be regulated by phosphorylation and is influenced by neuronal activity. Preclinical studies demonstrate the protective effects of estrogens with respect to neurodegenerative diseases, such as stroke. More research will be necessary in order to close the gap between these preclinical results and data from clinical trials and to develop estrogen therapies for neuronal diseases.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Obstetrics and Gynecology
- Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
- Reproductive Medicine
- Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health