Rapid and reversible inhibition of brain aromatase activity

Jacques Balthazart, M. Baillien, G. F. Ball

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

121 Scopus citations


Many actions of androgens require their conversion via the enzyme aromatase into oestrogens. Changes in brain aromatase activity are thought to take place via changes in enzyme concentration mediated by effects of sex steroids on aromatase transcription. These changes are relatively slow which fits in well with the fact that oestrogens are generally viewed as slow-acting messengers that act via changes in gene transcription. More recently, fast actions of oestrogens, presumably at the level of the cell membrane, have been described both in the female brain and in the male brain after the conversion of testosterone to oestradiol. It is difficult to reconcile the slow regulation of oestrogen synthesis (that occurs via changes in aromatase concentration) with a rapid action at the membrane level. Even if fast transduction mechanisms are available, this will not result in rapid changes in brain function if the availability of the ligand does not also change rapidly. Here, we report that aromatase activity in neural tissue of male Japanese quail (Coturnix japonica) is rapidly downregulated in the presence of Mg2+, Ca2+ and ATP in hypothalamic homogenates and in brain explants exposed to high Ca2+ levels following a K+ -induced depolarization or the stimulation of glutamate receptors. The K+ -induced inhibition of aromatase activity is observed within minutes and reversible. Given that aromatase is present in presynaptic boutons, it is possible that rapidly changing levels of locally produced oestrogen are available for nongenomic regulation of neuronal physiology in a manner more akin to the action of a neuropeptide than previously hypothesized.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)63-73
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Neuroendocrinology
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2001
Externally publishedYes


  • Glutamate receptor
  • Non genomic action of oestrogen
  • Oestrogen synthase
  • Rapid oestrogen action
  • Testosterone aromatization

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
  • Endocrinology
  • Endocrine and Autonomic Systems
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience


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