This is your brain on estrogen

October 04, 2011

It's no secret that women often gain weight as they get older. The sex hormone estrogen has an important, if underappreciated, role to play in those burgeoning waistlines.

Now, researchers reporting in the October Cell Metabolism, a Cell Press publication, have traced those hormonal effects on metabolism to different parts of the brain. The findings may lead to the development of highly selective hormone replacement therapies that could be used to combat obesity or infertility in women without the risks for heart disease and breast cancer, the researchers say.

"When women approach menopause, they gain weight in fat and their energy expenditure goes down," says Deborah Clegg of the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center. Estrogen levels decline and women grow increasingly susceptible to obesity and metabolic syndrome.

Estrogen acts on receptors found throughout the body, in fat, on ovaries and in muscle. But when it comes to the hormone's influence on metabolism, Clegg suspected receptors in the brain.

Others had traced the effects of estrogen on energy balance specifically to estrogen receptor-α (ERα). When her team deleted those receptors from the entire brains of mice, "we got very, very fat mice," Clegg said. The animals consumed more calories and burned less.

The researchers showed female mice lacking ERα in one part of the brain (the hypothalamic steroidogenic factor-1 or SF1 neurons) gained weight without eating any more. Loss of ERα from another brain area (the hypothalamic pro-opiomelanocortin or POMC neurons) had the opposite effect: animals ate more without gaining weight. Loss of ERα receptors in those same neurons also led to various problems in ovulation and fertility.

The findings suggest that drugs developed to specifically target estrogen receptors in the brain might offer a useful alternative to hormone replacement therapies that hit receptors throughout the body. The researchers say they would like to continue to isolate other estrogen-related effects and symptoms, for instance, on hot flashes and cognition.

"The more we know about estrogen's sites of action, the more likely it is we could develop designer hormone replacement therapies targeting tissue X, Y or Z," Clegg said.
-end-
Media Contacts:

Elisabeth (Lisa) Lyons
Cell Press
617-386-2121
elyons@cell.com

Mary Beth O'Leary
Cell Press
617-397-2802
moleary@cell.com

Cell Press

Related Breast Cancer Articles from Brightsurf:

Oncotarget: IGF2 expression in breast cancer tumors and in breast cancer cells
The Oncotarget authors propose that methylation of DVDMR represents a novel epigenetic biomarker that determines the levels of IGF2 protein expression in breast cancer.

Breast cancer: AI predicts which pre-malignant breast lesions will progress to advanced cancer
New research at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio, could help better determine which patients diagnosed with the pre-malignant breast cancer commonly as stage 0 are likely to progress to invasive breast cancer and therefore might benefit from additional therapy over and above surgery alone.

Partial breast irradiation effective treatment option for low-risk breast cancer
Partial breast irradiation produces similar long-term survival rates and risk for recurrence compared with whole breast irradiation for many women with low-risk, early stage breast cancer, according to new clinical data from a national clinical trial involving researchers from The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center - Arthur G.

Breast screening linked to 60 per cent lower risk of breast cancer death in first 10 years
Women who take part in breast screening have a significantly greater benefit from treatments than those who are not screened, according to a study of more than 50,000 women.

More clues revealed in link between normal breast changes and invasive breast cancer
A research team, led by investigators from Georgetown Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center, details how a natural and dramatic process -- changes in mammary glands to accommodate breastfeeding -- uses a molecular process believed to contribute to survival of pre-malignant breast cells.

Breast tissue tumor suppressor PTEN: A potential Achilles heel for breast cancer cells
A highly collaborative team of researchers at the Medical University of South Carolina and Ohio State University report in Nature Communications that they have identified a novel pathway for connective tissue PTEN in breast cancer cell response to radiotherapy.

Computers equal radiologists in assessing breast density and associated breast cancer risk
Automated breast-density evaluation was just as accurate in predicting women's risk of breast cancer, found and not found by mammography, as subjective evaluation done by radiologists, in a study led by researchers at UC San Francisco and Mayo Clinic.

Blood test can effectively rule out breast cancer, regardless of breast density
A new study published in PLOS ONE demonstrates that Videssa® Breast, a multi-protein biomarker blood test for breast cancer, is unaffected by breast density and can reliably rule out breast cancer in women with both dense and non-dense breast tissue.

Study shows influence of surgeons on likelihood of removal of healthy breast after breast cancer dia
Attending surgeons can have a strong influence on whether a patient undergoes contralateral prophylactic mastectomy after a diagnosis of breast cancer, according to a study published by JAMA Surgery.

Young breast cancer patients undergoing breast conserving surgery see improved prognosis
A new analysis indicates that breast cancer prognoses have improved over time in young women treated with breast conserving surgery.

Read More: Breast Cancer News and Breast Cancer Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.