The biological actions of estrogens on target cells are mediated by two nuclear receptors: the estrogen receptor (ER) alpha and the recently characterized ER beta. In the male rat, the physiological role of estrogens involves multiple actions, from masculinization of brain areas related to reproductive function and sexual behavior to regulation of testicular development and function. Paradoxically, however, administration of high doses of estrogen during the critical period of neonatal differentiation results in an array of defects in the reproductive axis that permanently disrupt male fertility. The focus of this study was to characterize the effects and mechanism(s) of action of neonatal estrogenization on the pattern of testicular ER alpha and beta gene expression during postnatal development. To this end, groups of male rats were treated at day 1 of age with estradiol benzoate (500 microg/rat), and testicular ER alpha and ER beta mRNA levels were assayed by semi-quantitative RT-PCR from the neonatal period until puberty (days 1-45 of age). Furthermore, the expression of androgen receptor (AR) mRNA was evaluated, given the partially overlapping pattern of tissue distribution of ER alpha, ER beta and AR messages in the developing rat testis. In addition, potential mechanisms for neonatal estrogen action were explored. Thus, to discriminate between direct effects and indirect actions through estrogen-induced suppression of serum gonadotropins, the effects of neonatal estrogenization were compared with those induced by blockade of gonadotropin secretion with a potent LHRH antagonist in the neonatal period. Our results indicate that neonatal exposure to estrogen differentially alters testicular expression of alpha and beta ER messages: ER alpha mRNA levels, as well as those of AR, were significantly decreased, whereas relative and total expression levels of ER beta mRNA increased during postnatal/prepubertal development after neonatal estrogen exposure, a phenomenon that was not mimicked by LHRH antagonist treatment. It is concluded that the effect of estrogen on the expression levels of ER alpha and beta mRNAs probably involves a direct action on the developing testis, and cannot be attributed to estrogen-induced suppression of gonadotropin secretion during the neonatal period.
If the inline PDF is not rendering correctly, you can download the PDF file here.