• CNS;
  • oestrogen;
  • receptors;
  • signalling


Oestrogen is important for the development of neuroendocrine centres and other neural networks including limbic and motor systems. Later in adulthood, oestrogen regulates the functional performance of different neural systems and is presumably implicated in the modulation of cognitive efficiency. Although still a matter of controversial discussion, clinical and experimental studies point at a potential neuroprotective role of oestrogen. Concerning the concept of cellular oestrogen action, it is undisputed that it comprises the binding and activation of nuclear receptors. The last decades have, however, immensely broadened the spectrum of steroid signalling within a cell. Novel steroid-activated intracellular signalling mechanisms were described which are usually termed ‘non-classical’ or ‘non-genomic’. The brain appears to be a rich source of this new mode of oestrogen action. Studies from the past years have pinpointed non-classical oestrogen effects in many CNS regions. All available data support the view that non-classical oestrogen action requires interactions with putative membrane binding sites/receptors. In this article, we aim at compiling the most recent findings on the nature and identity of membrane oestrogen receptors with respect to the brain. We also attempt to turn readers attention to the coupling of these ‘novel’ receptors to distinct intracellular signalling pathways.