Diversity of mechanisms involved in aromatase regulation and estrogen action in the brain

Thierry D. Charlier, Charlotte A. Cornil, Gregory F. Ball, Jacques Balthazart

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

40 Scopus citations


Background: The mechanisms through which estrogens modulate neuronal physiology, brain morphology, and behavior in recent years have proven to be far more complex than previously thought. For example, a second nuclear estrogen receptor has been identified, a new family of coregulatory proteins regulating steroid-dependent gene transcriptions was discovered and, finally, it has become clear that estrogens have surprisingly rapid effects based on their actions on cell membranes, which in turn result in the modulation of intracellular signaling cascades. Scope of review: This paper presents a selective review of new findings in this area related to work in our laboratories, focusing on the role of estrogens in the activation of male sexual behavior. Two separate topics are considered. We first discuss functions of the steroid receptor coactivator-1 (SRC-1) that has emerged as a key limiting factor for behavioral effects of estradiol. Knocking-down its expression by antisense oligonucleotides drastically inhibits male-typical sexual behaviors. Secondly, we describe rapid regulations of brain estradiol production by calcium-dependent phosphorylations of the aromatase enzyme, themselves under the control of neurotransmitter activity. Major conclusions: These rapid changes in estrogen bioavailability have clear behavioral consequences. Increases or decreases in estradiol concentrations respectively obtained by an acute injection of estradiol itself or of an aromatase inhibitor lead within 15-30. min to parallel changes in sexual behavior frequencies. General significance: These new controls of estrogen action offer a vast array of possibilities for discrete local controls of estrogen action. They also represent a formidable challenge for neuroendocrinologists trying to obtain an integrated view of brain function in relation to behavior.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1094-1105
Number of pages12
JournalBiochimica et Biophysica Acta - General Subjects
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 2010
Externally publishedYes


  • Aromatase
  • Estrogen receptor
  • Male sexual behavior
  • Non-genomic action of steroids
  • Preoptic area
  • Steroid receptor coregulator

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biophysics
  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology


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