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

Identification of aromatase in the reptilian brain.

The present study tests the hypothesis that brain aromatase is an "ancient" property of nervous tissue and may be identified in homologues of the limbic system in a non-mammalian vertebrate, the turtle Chrysemys picta. Tissue homogenates (180 mg wet weight/2 ml) were incubated with [7 alpha-3H]androstenedione and cofactors for 60 min at 37 C. Estrone (E1) was isolated and characterized by thin layer chromatography, methylation and recrystallization to constant specific activity. No estradiol-17 beta was detected. Aromatase was found only in the forebrain but was diffusely distributed throughout this major brain division. No other neural or non-neural tissues, including mid- and hindbrain structures, testis, and ovary, synthesized detectable quantities of E1 in our system. The strio-amygdaloid complex of both sexes synthesized more E1 per unit weight than the preoptic-hypothalamic area (POA-HTH) or other forebrain structures. It is possible that the conversion of androgen to estrogen has biological significance in this species since the reaction occurred throughout the physiological temperature range experienced during activity in nature and sex differences in brain aromatase activity during the breeding season were apparent. These experiments in Chrysemys demonstrate that the synthesis of estrogen from androgen by the brain is not limited to mammals, but also occurs at a more primitive level of phylogenetic development. Restriction of aromatase to forebrain structures of the turtle is consistent with the neuroanatomic distribution of enzyme activity in the limbic system of mammals. Estrogen yield from adult turtle brain incubates (3.2-22.6 pmol/g) is more like that reported for fetal (2.7-33 pmol/g) than for adult (0.1-1.9 pmol/g) mammals. We suggest that the in situ synthesis of estrogen by the central nervous system has its orgins early in vertebrate evolution and may be a primitive characteristic of brain-steroid interactions that regulate physiological and behavioral sex in vertebrates.[1]


  1. Identification of aromatase in the reptilian brain. Callard, G.V., Petro, Z., Ryan, K.J. Endocrinology (1977) [Pubmed]
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