Estrogens provide neuroprotection in animal models of stroke, but uterotrophic effects and cancer risk limit translation. Classic estrogen receptors (ERs) serve as transcription factors, whereas nonnuclear ERs govern numerous cell processes and exert beneficial cardiometabolic effects without uterine or breast cancer growth in mice. Here, we determined how nonnuclear ER stimulation with pathway-preferential estrogen (PaPE)-1 affects stroke outcome in mice. Ovariectomized female mice received vehicle, estradiol (E2), or PaPE-1 before and after transient middle cerebral artery occlusion (tMCAo). Lesion severity was assessed with MRI, and poststroke motor function was evaluated through 2 weeks after tMCAo. Circulating, spleen, and brain leukocyte subpopulations were quantified 3 days after tMCAo by flow cytometry, and neurogenesis and angiogenesis were evaluated histologically 2 weeks after tMCAo. Compared with vehicle, E2 and PaPE-1 reduced infarct volumes at 3 days after tMCAo, though only PaPE-1 reduced leukocyte infiltration into the ischemic brain. Unlike E2, PaPE-1 had no uterotrophic effect. Both interventions had negligible effect on long-term poststroke neuronal or vascular plasticity. All mice displayed a decline in motor performance at 2 days after tMCAo, and vehicle-treated mice did not improve thereafter. In contrast, E2 and PaPE-1 treatment afforded functional recovery at 6 days after tMCAo and beyond. Thus, the selective activation of nonnuclear ER by PaPE-1 decreased stroke severity and improved functional recovery in mice without undesirable uterotrophic effects. The beneficial effects of PaPE-1 are also associated with attenuated neuroinflammation in the brain. PaPE-1 and similar molecules may warrant consideration as efficacious ER modulators providing neuroprotection without detrimental effects on the uterus or cancer risk.
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