Estradiol-17β (E2) induces rodent hippocampal neural progenitor cell (NPC) proliferation in vitro, in vivo, and after brain injury. The purpose of the present investigation was to determine whether E 2-induced proliferation observed in rodent model systems generalized to cells of human neural origin and the signaling pathway by which E2 promotes mitosis of human NPCs (hNPCs). Results of these analyses indicate that E2 induced a significant increase in hNPC proliferation in a time- and dose-dependent manner. E2-induced hNPC DNA replication was paralleled by elevated cell cycle protein expression and centrosome amplification, which was associated with augmentation of total cell number. To determine whether estrogen receptor (ER) and which ER subtype were required for E2-induced hNPC proliferation, ER expression was first determined by real-time RT-PCR, followed by Western blot analysis, and subsequently verified pharmacologically using ERα or β-selective ligands. Results of these analyses indicated that ERβ expression was predominant relative to ERα, which was barely detectable in hNPCs. Activation of ERβ by the ERβ-selective ligand, diarylpropionitrile, led to an increase in phosphorylated extracellular signal-regulated kinase, and subsequent centrosome amplification and hNPC proliferation, which were blocked by the MEKK antagonist, UO126, but not its inactive analog, UO124. These findings, for the first time, demonstrate the molecular cascade and related cell biology events involved in E2-induced hNPC proliferation in vitro. Therapeutic implications of these findings relevant to hormone therapy and prevention of neurodegenerative disease are discussed.
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