Estrogen receptor β (ERβ) and androgen receptor (AR) are found in high levels within populations of neurons in the hypothalamus. To determine whether AR or ERβ plays a role in regulating hypothalamo-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis function by direct action on these neurons, we examined the effects of central implants of 17β-estradiol (E2), 5α-dihydrotestosterone (DHT), the DHT metabolite 5α-androstan-3β,17β-diol (3β-diol), and several ER subtype-selective agonists on the corticosterone and adrenocorticotropin (ACTH) response to immobilization stress. In addition, activation of neurons in the paraventricular nucleus (PVN) was monitored by examining c-fos mRNA expression. Pellets containing these compounds were stereotaxically implanted near the PVN of gonadectomized male rats. Seven days later, animals were killed directly from theirhomecage (nonstressed) or were restrained for 30min(stressed) before they were killed. Compared with controls, E2 and the ERα-selective agonists moxestrol and propyl-pyrazole-triol significantly increased the stress induced release of corticosterone and ACTH. In contrast, central administration of DHT, 3β-diol, and the ERβ-selective compound diarylpropionitrile significantly decreased the corticosterone and ACTH response to immobilization. Cotreatment with the ER antagonist tamoxifen completely blocked the effects of 3β-diol and partially blocked the effect of DHT, whereas the AR antagonist flutamide had no effect. Moreover, DHT, 3β-diol, and diarylpropionitrile treatment significantly decreased restraint-induced c-fos mRNA expression in the PVN. Together, these studies indicate that the inhibitory effects of DHT on HPA axis activity maybe in part mediated via its conversion to 3β-diol and subsequent binding to ERβ.
- Estrogen receptor
- Hypothalamo-pituitary-adrenal axis
ASJC Scopus subject areas