Astrocyte-derived estrogen regulates reactive astrogliosis and is neuroprotective following ischemic brain injury

Jing Wang, Gangadhara R. Sareddy, Yujiao Lu, Uday P. Pratap, Fulei Tang, Karah M. Greene, Pornjittra L. Meyre, Rajeshwar R. Tekmal, Ratna K. Vadlamudi, Darrell W. Brann

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

69 Scopus citations


Expression of the 17b-estradiol (E2) synthesis enzyme aromatase is highly upregulated in astrocytes following brain injury. However, the precise role of astrocyte-derived E2 in the injured brain remains unclear. In the current study, we generated a glial fibrillary acidic protein (GFAP) promoter-driven aromatase knock-out (GFAP-ARO-KO) mouse model to deplete astrocyte-derived E2 in the brain and determine its roles after global cerebral ischemia (GCI) in male and female mice. GFAP-ARO-KO mice were viable and fertile, with normal gross brain structure, normal morphology, intensity and distribution of astrocytes, normal aromatase expression in neurons, and normal cognitive function basally. In contrast, after GCI, GFAP-ARO-KO mice: (1) lacked the normal elevation of astrocyte aromatase and hippocampal E2 levels; (2) had significantly attenuated reactive astrogliosis; and (3) displayed enhanced neuronal damage, microglia activation, and cognitive deficits. RNA-sequencing (RNA-seq) analysis revealed that the ischemic GFAP-ARO-KO mouse hippocampus failed to upregulate the “A2” panel of reactive astrocyte genes. In addition, the JAK-STAT3 pathway, which is critical for the induction of reactive astrogliosis, was significantly downregulated in the GFAP-ARO-KO hippocampus following GCI. Finally, exogenous E2 administration fully rescued the compromised JAK-STAT3 pathway and reactive astrogliosis, and reversed the enhanced neuronal damage and microglial activation in the GFAP-ARO-KO mice after GCI, suggesting that the defects in the KO mice are because of a loss of E2 rather than an increase in precursor androgens. In conclusion, the current study provides novel genetic evidence for a beneficial role of astrocyte-derived E2 in reactive astrogliosis, microglial activation, and neuroprotection following an ischemic injury to the brain.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)9751-9771
Number of pages21
JournalJournal of Neuroscience
Issue number50
StatePublished - Dec 9 2020


  • 17b-estradiol
  • Aromatase
  • Astrocyte activation
  • Estrogen
  • Global cerebral ischemia
  • Hippocampus

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Neuroscience


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