Aromatase and Sexual Differentiation of the Rodent Brain: The Old, the New, and the Unexpected

Margaret M. McCarthy, Christopher L. Wright and Anne T. M. Konkle

in Brain Aromatase, Estrogens, and Behavior

Published in print October 2012 | ISBN: 9780199841196
Published online January 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780199979837 | DOI:

Series: Oxford Series in Behavioral Neuroendocrinology

Aromatase and Sexual Differentiation of the Rodent Brain: The Old, the New, and the Unexpected

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The central role of neuronal aromatase activity in masculinization of the rodent brain has been firmly established for almost 40 years, yet the myriad of mechanisms by which the principal product of aromatization, estradiol, organizes the neural substrate to predispose adult behavior continue to be elucidated. Unexpected roles for inflammatory mediators and components of the immune system in sexual differentiation elucidate novel principles of brain development. Long-standing puzzles associated with female brain development, both feminization and defeminization, are being solved by unexpectedly rapid and developmentally delayed actions of estradiol, respectively. Neurosteroidogenesis in discrete brain regions, culminating with estradiol but possibly beginning with cholesterol, hints at additional roles for aromatization in brain development outside the confounds of the classical organizational/activational hypothesis and affecting cognitive regions such as the cortex, hippocampus, and cerebellum. Collectively, it is clear that we are far from the final chapter in determining how aromatization influences brain and behavior.

Keywords: activation; aromatase; defeminization; estradiol; feminization; hypothalamus; masculinization; organization; preoptic area; sexual differentiation; steroidogenesis; testosterone

Chapter.  10150 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Neuroscience

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