The expression of select genes necessary for membrane-associated estrogen receptor signaling differ by sex in adult rat hippocampus.


Dept. of Biological Sciences, North Carolina State University, Raleigh, NC, United States; W.M. Keck Center for Behavioral Biology, North Carolina State University, Raleigh, NC, United States; Center for Human Health and the Environment, North Carolina State University, Raleigh, NC, United States; Comparative Medicine Institute, North Carolina State University, Raleigh, NC, United States. Electronic address: [Email]


17β-estradiol can rapidly modulate neuron function via membrane estrogen receptors (ERs) in a sex-specific manner. For example, female rat hippocampal neurons express palmitoylated versions of ERα and ERβ that associate with the plasma membrane. These membrane-associated ERs are organized by caveolin proteins into functional signaling microdomains with metabotropic glutamate receptors (mGluRs). ER/mGluR signaling mediates several sex-specific estradiol actions on hippocampal neuron function. An important unanswered question regards the mechanism by which sex-specific membrane-associated ER signaling is generated, especially since it has been previously demonstrated that mGluR action is not sex-specific. One possibility is that the genes necessary for the ER membrane complex are differentially expressed between males and females, including genes that encode ERα and β, caveolin 1 and 3, and/or the palmitoylacyltransferases DHHC-7 and -21. Thus we used qPCR to test the hypothesis that these genes show sex differences in expression in neonatal and adult rat hippocampus. As an additional control we tested the expression of the 20 other DHHC palmitoylacyltransferases with no known connections to ER. In neonatal hippocampus, no sex differences were detected in gene expression. In adult hippocampus, the genes that encode caveolin 1 and DHHC-7 showed decreased expression in females compared to males. Thus, select genes differ by sex at specific developmental stages, arguing for a more nuanced model than simple widespread perinatal emergence of sex differences in all genes enabling sex-specific estradiol action. These findings enable the generation of new hypotheses regarding the mechanisms by which sex differences in membrane-associated ER signaling are programmed.


Caveolin,DHHC,Estrogen receptor,Hippocampus,Palmitoylation,Sex,

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