Estrogen receptor immunoreactivity in the adult primate brain: Neuronal distribution and association with p75, trkA, and choline acetyltransferase

M. M. Blurton-Jones, Jeffrey A Roberts, M. H. Tuszynski

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The neuroactive steroid hormone, estrogen, has been implicated in both the prevention and treatment of Alzheimer's disease. Interactions between estrogen and neurotrophic systems may partially explain the beneficial effects of estrogen therapy. Previous studies have identified estrogen binding sites colocalized with neurotrophin-related proteins and mRNA within the rodent brain. Extending these studies to a model more relevant to human systems, we have mapped the distribution of estrogen receptor alpha (ER-α)- immunoreactive neurons in adult nonhuman primate brains. In addition, we used double-label immunohistochemistry to examine colocalization of ER-α with the low- and high-affinity neurotrophin receptors, p75 and trkA, and with the cholinergic marker choline acetyltransferase. Large numbers of ER-α- immunoreactive cells were detected in several amygdaloid and hypothalamic nuclei. ER-α-labeled cells were also found in the lateral septum, nucleus of the stria terminals, subfornical organ, and periaqueductal gray. Only rare, scattered ER-α-immunoreactive cells were noted in the cholinergic basal forebrain. In contrast to rodents, no cells exhibited ER-α and p75 or ER-α and trkA double-labeling. However, ER-labeled neurons in the amygdala, a region containing putative nerve growth factor-producing cells and exhibiting a role in memory, were densely and specifically invested with cholinergic terminals projecting from the basal forebrain. Estrogen-labeled neurons were also present in the lateral septal nucleus, a system that receives hippocampal inputs and projects to the neurotrophin-sensitive medial septum. Thus, interactions between neurotrophin-sensitive neurons and ER-bearing neurons exist in the primate brain, providing a potential paracrine basis for estrogen-state modulation of vulnerability to Alzheimer's disease.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)529-542
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Comparative Neurology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Mar 22 1999


  • Alzheimer's disease
  • Amygdala
  • Hippocampus
  • Nerve growth factor
  • Neurotrophins
  • Septal nucleus

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)


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