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Aromatase is pre-synaptic and sexually dimorphic in the adult zebra finch brain

By R. Scott Peterson, Lakshmi Yarram, Barney A Schlinger and Colin J Saldanha


Oestrogens organize and activate circuits within the vertebrate central nervous system. Oestrogen synthesis occurs via the expression of aromatase, a P450 enzyme detected in microsomes and more recently in pre-synaptic boutons. Synaptic aromatase has only been described in brain regions that express aromatase in many subcellular compartments, so its function remains poorly understood. To more thoroughly study the role of oestrogen synthesis at synaptic terminals, we examined the ultrastructural compartmentalization of aromatase in the zebra finch; a species in which high aromatase activity can be measured in brain areas that do not contain somal aromatase. Here, we report the presence of aromatase in pre-synaptic boutons in the hippocampus and the high vocal centre brain areas with low and undetectable somal aromatase, respectively, in addition to areas with abundant somal aromatase such as the preoptic area and caudomedial nidopallium. At these brain areas, males had more total synapses, more aromatase pre-synaptic boutons and importantly, the proportion of total synaptic profiles that expressed aromatase was significantly higher in males relative to females. Aromatase-positive pre-synaptic boutons were always observed innervating aromatase-negative post-synaptic elements. We conclude that oestrogen may be provided to discrete oestrogen-sensitive targets by synaptic aromatization. Further, some targets may be exposed to more oestrogen in males. The expression of aromatase in individual synapses of projection neurons represents a unique mechanism of neuroendocrine action. Neurons with steroidogenic capability may modulate distant targets with the specificity of axonal innervation

Topics: Research Article
Publisher: The Royal Society
OAI identifier: oai:pubmedcentral.nih.gov:1559905
Provided by: PubMed Central
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