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Hoffmann, R. A wiki for the life sciences where authorship matters. Nature Genetics (2008)

Differential regulation of proenkephalin gene expression by estrogen in the ventromedial hypothalamus of male and female rats: implications for the molecular basis of a sexually differentiated behavior.

The ventrolateral aspect of the ventromedial hypothalamic nucleus (VL-VM) contains many estrogen-concentrating neurons which mediate estrogen facilitation of reproductive behavior. Previous studies have shown that estrogen treatment increases proenkephalin ( PE) gene expression in neurons of the VL-VM in ovariectomized female rats, and that enkephalin peptides may stimulate lordosis behavior. To determine whether there is a sex difference in steroid hormone regulation of PE gene expression we have examined the effects of estrogen and testosterone on PE mRNA levels in male rats. Slot blot hybridization analysis of RNA isolated from the ventromedial hypothalamus indicated that estrogen treatment increased PE mRNA levels in the VL-VM of ovariectomized female rats (2.2-fold), but had no measurable effect on PE mRNA levels in gonadectomized males. Testosterone treatment of gonadectomized males also had no effect on PE gene expression. To determine whether the sex difference in estrogen-inducibility of PE gene expression is due to the developmental effects of gonadal steroids, we have investigated the effect of estrogen on PE mRNA levels in the VL-VM of neonatally androgenized female rats. Unlike the genetic male, the androgenized females responded to estrogen treatment with a female-typical increase in PE mRNA levels (1.7-fold). Further, although the androgenized rats clearly exhibited signs of defeminization, they did exhibit estrogen-facilitated lordosis behavior when tested with manual stimulation. The PE mRNA induction in estrogen-treated androgenized rats correlated well with the lordosis scores obtained by manual stimulation testing. These results indicate that estrogen regulation of PE gene expression in the VL-VM is sexually differentiated and support the hypothesis that the enkephalinergic neurons of the VL-VM are involved in the regulation of female reproductive behavior.[1]


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