Hippocampal functions are influenced by steroid hormones, such as testosterone and estradiol. It has been demonstrated that hippocampus-derived steroid hormones play important roles in neuronal protection and synapse formation. Our research groups have demonstrated that estradiol is de novo synthesized in the rat hippocampus. However, the mechanism(s) regulating this synthesis remains unclear. It has been reported that tributyltin, an environmental pollutant, binds to the retinoid X receptor (RXR) and modifies estrogen synthesis in human granulosa-like tumor cells. This compound can penetrate the blood brain barrier, and tends to accumulate in the brain. Based on these facts, we hypothesized that tributyltin could influence the hippocampal estradiol synthesis. A concentration of 0.1μM tributyltin induced an increase in the mRNA content of P450(17α) and P450arom in hippocampal slices, as determined using real-time PCR. The transcript levels of other steroidogenic enzymes and a steroidogenic acute regulatory protein were not affected. The estradiol level in rat hippocampal slices was subsequently determined using a radioimmunoassay. We found that the estradiol synthesis was stimulated by ∼2-fold following a 48-h treatment with 0.1μM tributyltin, and this was accompanied by transcriptional activation of P450(17α) and P450arom. Tributyltin stimulated de novo hippocampal estradiol synthesis by modifying the transcription of specific steroidogenic enzymes.
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