Regulation of Gene Expression in the Developing Midbrain by Estrogen: Implication of Classical and Nonclassical Steroid Signaling


Addres for correspondence: Cordian Beyer, Ph.D., Abteilung Anatomie und Zellbiologie, Universität Ulm, D-89069 Ulm, Germany. Voice: 49-(0)731-50-23228; fax: 49-(0)731-50-23217.


Abstract: Estrogen plays an important role during midbrain development. This is indicated by the presence of nuclear estrogen receptors and the transient expression of the estrogen-forming enzyme aromatase. A number of recent studies have shown that estrogen promotes the differentiation and survival, as well as physiological performance, of midbrain dopaminergic cells. In addition, we have reported that both ways of cellular estrogen signaling (classical and nonclassical) as well as interactions with nonneuronal target cells are involved in the transmission of intra- and intercellular estrogen effects in this brain region. This study provides additional evidence that (i) estrogen is capable of regulating gene expression in cultured embryonic neurons and astrocytes differently and (ii) both signaling mechanisms, i.e., classically through nuclear receptors and nonclassically through the stimulation of membrane-estrogen receptors, which are coupled to distinct intracellular signal transduction cascades, contribute diversely to gene regulation. These data reveal a high degree of complexity of estrogen action at the genomic level in the developing brain. Further studies are warranted to unravel the exact contribution of the differently regulated genes for developmental estrogen action.