09 December 2008
Among the numerous endocrine signals that affect the central nervous system, sex steroids play an important +role. It has been recently postulated that part of the effects of these hormones on the brain may be mediated by trophic factors, such as insulin-like growth factor I (IGF-I). Both estradiol and IGF-I increase the survival and differentiation of developing fetal rat hypothalamic neurons in culture. The effect of estradiol is blocked by the pure estrogen receptor antagonist ICI 182,780, by an antisense oligonucleotide to the estrogen receptor, and by an antisense oligonucleotide to IGF-I. In turn, the effect of IGF-I is blocked by ICI 182,780 and by the antisense oligonucleotide to the estrogen receptor. These findings indicate that estrogen-induced activation of the estrogen receptor in developing hypothalamic neurons requires the presence of IGF-I and that both estradiol and IGF-I use the estrogen receptor to mediate their trophic effects on hypothalamic cells. In vivo, sex steroids affect IGF-I levels in the endocrine hypothalamus. IGF-I levels in tanycytes, a specific subtype of glial cells present in the arcuate nucleus and median eminence, are sexually dimorphic in the rat, increase with the onset of puberty, and are regulated by perinatal and adult levels of sex steroids. These changes may be due to hormonal modifications of IGF-I uptake by tanycytes from blood or cerebrospinal fluid. Therefore, this type of glial cell appears to play a central role in the interaction of sex steroids and IGF-I in the hypothalamus.