Selective oestrogen receptor modulators differentially potentiate brain mitochondrial function

R. W. Irwin, J. Yao, J. To, R. T. Hamilton, E. Cadenas, R. D. Brinton

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

59 Scopus citations


The mitochondrial energy-transducing capacity of the brain is important for long-term neurological health and is influenced by endocrine hormone responsiveness. The present study aimed to determine the role of oestrogen receptor (ER) subtypes in regulating mitochondrial function using selective agonists for ERα (propylpyrazoletriol; PPT) and ERβ (diarylpropionitrile; DPN). Ovariectomised female rats were treated with 17β-oestradiol (E 2), PPT, DPN or vehicle control. Both ER selective agonists significantly increased the mitochondrial respiratory control ratio and cytochrome oxidase (COX) activity relative to vehicle. Western blots of purified whole brain mitochondria detected ERα and, to a greater extent, ERβ localisation. Pre-treatment with DPN, an ERβ agonist, significantly increased ERβ association with mitochondria. In the hippocampus, DPN activated mitochondrial DNA-encoded COXI expression, whereas PPT was ineffective, indicating that mechanistically ERβ, and not ERα, activated mitochondrial transcriptional machinery. Both selective ER agonists increased protein expression of nuclear DNA-encoded COXIV, suggesting that activation of ERβ or ERα is sufficient. Selective ER agonists up-regulated a panel of bioenergetic enzymes and antioxidant defence proteins. Up-regulated proteins included pyruvate dehydrogenase, ATP synthase, manganese superoxide dismutase and peroxiredoxin V. In vitro, whole cell metabolism was assessed in live primary cultured hippocampal neurones and mixed glia. The results of analyses conducted in vitro were consistent with data obtained in vivo. Furthermore, lipid peroxides, accumulated as a result of hormone deprivation, were significantly reduced by E 2, PPT and DPN. These findings suggest that the activation of both ERα and ERβ is differentially required to potentiate mitochondrial function in brain. As active components in hormone therapy, synthetically designed oestrogens as well as natural phyto-oestrogen cocktails can be tailored to improve brain mitochondrial endpoints.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)236-248
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Neuroendocrinology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2012
Externally publishedYes


  • Hippocampus
  • Mitochondria
  • Neurone
  • Oestradiol
  • Oestrogen receptor

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
  • Endocrinology
  • Endocrine and Autonomic Systems
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience


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