17b-Estradiol (E2) is produced from androgens via the action of the enzyme aromatase. E2 is known to be made in neurons in the brain, but the functions of neuron-derived E2 in the ischemic brain are unclear. Here, we used a forebrain neuron-specific aromatase KO (FBN-ARO-KO) mouse model to deplete neuron-derived E2 in the forebrain and determine its roles after global cerebral ischemia. We demonstrated that ovariectomized female FBN-ARO-KO mice exhibited significantly attenuated astrocyte activation, astrocytic aromatization, and decreased hippocampal E2 levels compared with FLOX mice. Furthermore, FBN-ARO-KO mice had exacerbated neuronal damage and worse cognitive dysfunction after global cerebral ischemia. Similar results were observed in intact male mice. RNA-seq analysis revealed alterations in pathways and genes associated with astrocyte activation, neuroinflammation, and oxidative stress in FBN-ARO-KO mice. The compromised astrocyte activation in FBN-ARO-KO mice was associated with robust downregulation of the astrocyte-derived neurotrophic factors, BDNF and IGF-1, as well as the astrocytic glutamate transporter, GLT-1. Neuronal FGF2, which acts in a paracrine manner to suppress astrocyte activation, was increased in FBN-ARO-KO neurons. Interestingly, blocking FGF2 signaling by central injection of FGFR3-neutralizing antibody was able to reverse the diminishment in neuroprotective astrocyte reactivity, and attenuate neuronal damage in FBN-ARO-KO mice. Moreover, in vivo E2 replacement suppressed FGF2 signaling and rescued the compromised reactive astrogliosis and cognitive deficits. Collectively, our data provide novel genetic evidence for a beneficial role of neuron-derived E2 in astrocyte activation, neuroprotection, and cognitive preservation following ischemic injury to the brain.
- Cerebral ischemia
ASJC Scopus subject areas