Estrogen receptor α, not β, is a critical link in estradiol-mediated protection against brain injury

Dena B. Dubal, Hong Zhu, Jin Yu, Shane W. Rau, Paul J. Shughrue, Istvan Merchenthaler, Mark S. Kindy, Phyllis M. Wise

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Estradiol protects against brain injury, neurodegeneration, and cognitive decline. Our previous work demonstrates that physiological levels of estradiol protect against stroke injury and that this protection may be mediated through receptor-dependent alterations of gene expression. In this report, we tested the hypothesis that estrogen receptors play a pivotal role in mediating neuroprotective actions of estradiol and dissected the potential biological roles of each estrogen receptor (ER) subtype, ERα and ERβ, in the injured brain. To investigate and delineate these mechanisms, we used ERα-knockout (ERαKO) and ERβ-knockout (ERβKO) mice in an animal model of stroke. We performed our studies by using a controlled endocrine paradigm, because endogenous levels of estradiol differ dramatically among ERαKO, ERβKO, and wild-type mice. We ovariectomized ERαKO, ERβKO, and the respective wild-type mice and implanted them with capsules filled with oil (vehicle) or a dose of 17β-estradiol that produces physiological hormone levels in serum. One week later, mice underwent ischemia. Our results demonstrate that deletion of ERα completely abolishes the protective actions of estradiol in all regions of the brain; whereas the ability of estradiol to protect against brain injury is totally preserved in the absence of ERβ. Thus, our results clearly establish that the ERα subtype is a critical mechanistic link in mediating the protective effects of physiological levels of estradiol in brain injury. Our discovery that ERα mediates protection of the brain carries far-reaching implications for the selective targeting of ERs in the treatment and prevention of neural dysfunction associated with normal aging or brain injury.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1952-1957
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number4
StatePublished - Feb 13 2001
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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