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Keywords:

  • VGLUT2;
  • ER-alpha;
  • in situ hybridization

Abstract

Oestrogen exerts its effects in the brain by binding to and activating two members of the nuclear receptor family, oestrogen receptor (ER)-α and ER-β. Evidence suggests that oestrogen-receptive neurones participate in the generation of reproductive behaviours and that they convey the oestrogen message to gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH) neurones. The aim of the present study was to identify the neurochemical phenotype of a subset of oestrogen receptor-expressing neurones. To this aim, we focused on the glutamate neuronal system, which is one of the most important stimulators of GnRH synthesis and release. We used the presence of vesicular glutamate transporter-2 (VGLUT2) mRNA as a specific marker to identify glutamate neurones and employed dual in situ hybridization to localize ERα mRNA-(35S-labelling) and VGLUT2 mRNA-(digoxigenin-labelling) expressing neurones within the hypothalamus. The results show that the overall distribution of VGLUT2 mRNA and ERα mRNA are consistent with previous data in the literature. Dual-labelled neurones were localized in the ventrolateral part of the ventromedial nucleus where 81.3 ± 3.4% of the ERα mRNA containing neurones expressed VGLUT2 mRNA, in the anteroventral periventricular nucleus (30% colocalization) and in the medial preoptic nucleus (19% colocalization). Only 4.4% of the ERα expressing neurones in the arcuate nucleus contained VGLUT2 mRNA. These findings reveal that certain subpopulations of oestrogen-receptive neurones are glutamatergic in select hypothalamic areas that are known to regulate reproductive behaviour and GnRH neurones in the female rat. Thus, the oestrogen signal could be propagated through glutamate neurones to distant sites and influence the activity of the postsynaptic neurones.