Neuronal arornatase, the enzyme that catalyzes the conversion of androgens to estrogens, is involved in brain sexual differentiation, the regulation of reproductive behavior, and gonadotropin secretion. We have previously reported that arornatase P450 (AromP450) protein expression is enhanced by both androgens and estrogens in the principal nucleus of the bed nucleus of the stria terminalis (prBST) and posterodorsal part of the media] amygdaloid nucleus (pdMAm) of the adult rat but is not altered in the central amygdaloid nucleus (CeAm) even after sex-steroid withdrawal or supplementation. Here, we have evaluated, via in situ hybridization with digoxigenin-labeled cRNA probes, the sex-steroidal regulation of brain ArornP450 mRNA in the prBST, pdMAm, and CeAm of orchidectomized and adrenalectomized adult male rats treated with sesame oil, testosterone (1 mg/rat/day), dihydrotestosterone (1 mg/rat/day), or 17 beta-estradiol (2 mu g/rat/day) for 6 days. AromP450-mRNA expression in the prBST and pdMAm was markedly reduced in orchidectomized/adrenalectomized rats treated with sesame oil but strongly enhanced by testosterone or dihydrotestosterone and significantly reinstated by 17 beta-estradiol. These results are essentially consistent with those of AromP450 protein expression and thus indicate that enhanced AromP450-protein expression in the prBST and pdMAm reflects transcriptional upregulation and/or post-transcriptional stabilization of its mRNA by sex steroids. In the CeAm, despite moderate AromP450-protein expression, the mRNA has never been detected with or without sex-steroidal manipulations, indicating that the putative sex-steroid-insensitive AromP450 mRNA in the CeAm may be distinct from that in the prBST and pdMAm or, if it occurs at all, expressed at much lower levels.
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