Estrogen regulation of glucose metabolism and mitochondrial function: Therapeutic implications for prevention of Alzheimer's disease

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129 Scopus citations


Estrogen-induced signaling pathways in hippocampal and cortical neurons converge upon the mitochondria to enhance mitochondrial function and to sustain aerobic glycolysis and citric acid cycle-driven oxidative phosphorylation and ATP generation. Data derived from experimental and clinical paradigms investigating estrogen intervention in healthy systems and prior to neurodegenerative insult indicate enhanced neural defense and survival through maintenance of calcium homeostasis, enhanced glycolysis coupled to the citric acid cycle (aerobic glycolysis), sustained and enhanced mitochondrial function, protection against free radical damage, efficient cholesterol trafficking and beta amyloid clearance. The convergence of E2 mechanisms of action onto mitochondrial is also a potential point of vulnerability when activated in a degenerating neural system and could exacerbate the degenerative processes through increased load on dysregulated calcium homeostasis. The data indicate that as the continuum of neurological health progresses from healthy to unhealthy so too do the benefits of estrogen or hormone therapy. If neurons are healthy at the time of estrogen exposure, their response to estrogen is beneficial for both neuronal survival and neurological function. In contrast, if neurological health is compromised, estrogen exposure over time exacerbates neurological demise. The healthy cell bias of estrogen action hypothesis provides a lens through which to assess the disparities in outcomes across the basic to clinical domains of scientific inquiry and on which to predict future applications of estrogen and hormone therapeutic interventions sustain neurological health and to prevent age-associated neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's. Overall, E2 promotes the energetic capacity of brain mitochondria by maximizing aerobic glycolysis (oxidative phosphorylation coupled to pyruvate metabolism). The enhanced aerobic glycolysis in the aging brain would be predicted to prevent conversion of the brain to using alternative sources of fuel such as the ketone body pathway characteristic of Alzheimer's.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1504-1511
Number of pages8
JournalAdvanced Drug Delivery Reviews
Issue number13-14
StatePublished - Oct 2008
Externally publishedYes


  • Aerobic glycolysis
  • Alzheimer's disease
  • Bioenergetics
  • Brain metabolism
  • Estrogen
  • Hormone therapy
  • Mitochondria

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pharmaceutical Science


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