Distribution and chemical composition of estrogen receptor β neurons in the paraventricular nucleus of the female and male mouse hypothalamus

Mario G. Oyola, Maranda K. Thompson, Aaron Z. Handa, Robert J. Handa

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

31 Scopus citations


Activation of estrogen receptor beta (ERβ)-expressing neurons regulates the mammalian stress response via the hypothalamic–pituitary–adrenal (HPA) axis. These neurons densely populate the paraventricular nucleus of the hypothalamus (PVN). Recent research has revealed striking differences between rat and mouse PVN cytochemistry, but careful exploration of PVN ERβ neurons in mice has been hindered by a lack of specific ERβ antisera. Therefore, we used male and female transgenic mice expressing EGFP under the control of the mouse ERβ promoter (ERβ-EGFP) to examine the chemical architecture of PVN ERβ cells. Using immunohistochemistry, we found that 90% of ERβ-immunoreactivity (-ir) colocalized with EGFP. Cellular colocalization of EGFP with neuropeptides, transcription modulators, and neuronal tracers was examined throughout the PVN. ERβ-EGFP cells expressed oxytocin more abundantly in the rostral (71 ± 3%) than caudal (33 ± 8%) PVN. Arginine vasopressin colocalized with EGFP more often in females (18 ± 3%) than males (4 ± 1%). Moreover, estrogen receptor α-ir colocalized with ERβ-EGFP at low levels (15 ± 3%). Using a corticotropin releasing hormone-cre driver X tdTomato reporter mouse, we found a moderate colocalization with ERβ-ir (48 ± 16%) in the middle PVN. Peripheral injection of fluorogold revealed that the rostral PVN ERβ-EGFP cells are neuroendocrine neurons whereas non-neuroendocrine (presumably pre-autonomic) ERβ-EGFP neurons predominated in the posterior PVN. These data demonstrate chemoarchitectural differences in ERβ neurons of the mouse PVN that are different from that previously described for the rat, thus, elucidating potential neuronal pathways involved in the regulation of the HPA axis in mice.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3666-3682
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Comparative Neurology
Issue number17
StatePublished - Dec 1 2017


  • ESR2
  • RRID:IMSR_JAX:007908
  • RRID:MMRRC_036904-UC
  • cytochemistry
  • estrogen receptor beta
  • paraventricular nucleus of the hypothalamus

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Neuroscience


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