Sex hormones are involved in the physiological regulation of several aspects of behavior and neuroendocrine events. It has been accepted that such effects are mediated directly by steroid actions on neurons; however, new studies have shown that the glial cells are also affected by gonadal steroids. The microglia are one specialized brain glial cell type, which is a target for estrogen actions. In fact, we believe that many of the immune and nonimmune regulatory functions of microglia in the brain are influenced directly by estrogen via expression and secretion of cytokines, and growth factors by the microglia. The present review details only a section of the known aspects of microglial function, focusing mainly on nonimmune regulatory actions in the brain and their functional relationship with sex hormones. Moreover, we present evidence for the presence of estrogen receptor-beta (ERbeta) in rat microglial cells.
Copyright 1999 John Wiley & Sons, Inc.