Estrogen and progesterone receptor expression in neuroendocrine and related neurons of the pubertal female monkey hypothalamus

Paul C. Goldsmith, James E Boggan, Khushdev K. Thind

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32 Scopus citations


Expression of hypothalamic estrogen receptors (ER) and progesterone receptors (PR) is barely evident in prepubertal monkeys but is prominent in adults. To investigate whether adult patterns of ER and PR expression are established in mid-pubertal female cynomolgus monkeys, we labeled neuroendocrine (NEU) neurons by microinjection of retrograde tracer into the median eminence, and then identified ER and PR by specific immunostaining in separate sets of hypothalamic sections. ER and PR appeared in the cytoplasm and nuclei of cells identified exclusively as neurons, and retrograde tracer remained clearly visible in the cytoplasm of NEU neurons after immunostaining. Numbers of NEU and related neurons expressing ER or PR were quantified in principal hypothalamic regions. In the supraoptic nucleus, almost all neurons analyzed (n = 580) contained ER (94%) with many also NEU (73% ER + NEU), while lesser amounts of the neurons examined (n = 214) expressed PR (75%) and were NEU (53% PR + NEU). In the paraventricular nucleus, most of the neurons analyzed (n = 302) contained ER (90% ER; 54% ER + NEU), but few of the neurons studied (n = 269) contained PR (34% PR; 19% PR + NEU). In the periventricular zone, nearly all neurons examined (n = 795) contained ER (95% ER; 48% ER + NEU), but fewer of those studied (n = 298) exhibited PR (79% PR; 47% PR + NEU). In the arcuate-periventricular zone, all neurons examined (n = 542) contained ER (100%) but few were NEU (4% ER + NEU), while nearly all neurons studied (n = 418) contained PR (95%), some of which were NEU (21% PR + NEU). Neurons expressing ER were also prevalent in areas without NEU labeling, including the diagonal band of Broca, medial preoptic area, and mammillary bodies, but were less common in the septum and dorsomedial hypothalamus. Likewise, neuronal PR expression was seen frequently in the mammillary bodies, but occurred less often in the diagonal band of Broca, medial preoptic area, and dorsomedial hypothalamus. Neurons in the suprachiasmatic nucleus and lateral hypothalamic area lacked retrograde labeling. These results identify the principal. sites and subsets of NEU and related neurons which express ER and PR in the mid-pubertal female monkey hypothalamus. They appear to correlate well with known populations of steroid-sensitive NEU neurons present in these areas in adults. The data also suggest that functional patterns of ER and PR expression arise upon reactivation of the hypothalamic-pituitary-gonadal axis at puberty. The degrees of receptor expression and of nuclear translocation most likely reflect peripubertal changes in the levels of gonadal steroids. Taken together, these results provide important insights into the mechanisms and development of neuroendocrine control during the pubertal period in primates.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)325-334
Number of pages10
Issue number5
StatePublished - 1997


  • Gonadal steroid receptor
  • Gonadal steroids
  • Immunocytochemistry
  • Monkey
  • Puberty

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Endocrinology
  • Neuroscience(all)


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