Differential distribution of estrogen receptor (ER)-alpha and ER-beta in the midbrain raphe nuclei and periaqueductal gray in male mouse: Predominant role of ER-beta in midbrain serotonergic systems

Neuroscience. 2005;130(2):445-56. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroscience.2004.09.028.


We examined the distribution of estrogen receptor (ER)-alpha and ER-beta immunoreactive (ir) cells in the dorsal (DRN) and median/paramedian (MPRN) raphe nuclei in male mice. ER-alpha ir neurons were scattered across the three subdivisions (ventral, dorsal, and lateral) of the DRN and the MPRN. Robust ER-beta ir cells were observed throughout the raphe nuclei, and were particularly abundant in the ventral and dorsal subdivisions of the DRN. Using dual-label immunocytochemistry for ER-alpha or ER-beta with tryptophan hydroxylase (TPH), the rate-limiting enzyme for 5-hydroxytryptamine (5-HT) synthesis, over 90% of ER-beta ir cells exhibited TPH-ir in all DRN subdivisions, whereas only 23% of ER-alpha ir cells contained TPH. Comparisons of ER-alpha knockout (alphaERKO) as well as ER-beta knockout (betaERKO) mice with their respective wild-type (WT) littermates revealed that gene disruption of either ER-alpha or ER-beta did not affect the other ER subtype expression in the raphe nuclei. In situ hybridization histochemistry revealed that there was a small but statistically significant decrease in TPH mRNA expression in the ventral DRN subdivision in betaERKO mice compared with betaWT mice, whereas TPH mRNA levels were not affected in alphaERKO mice. These findings support a hypothesis that ER-beta activation may contribute to the estrogenic regulation of neuroendocrine and behavioral functions, in part, by acting directly on 5-HT neurons in the raphe nuclei in male mice.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Estrogen Receptor alpha / genetics
  • Estrogen Receptor alpha / metabolism*
  • Estrogen Receptor beta / genetics
  • Estrogen Receptor beta / metabolism*
  • Gene Expression Regulation / physiology
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Knockout
  • Neural Pathways / anatomy & histology
  • Neural Pathways / metabolism*
  • Neurons / metabolism
  • Periaqueductal Gray / anatomy & histology
  • Periaqueductal Gray / metabolism*
  • RNA, Messenger / metabolism
  • Raphe Nuclei / anatomy & histology
  • Raphe Nuclei / metabolism*
  • Serotonin / metabolism*
  • Sex Factors
  • Tryptophan Hydroxylase / genetics
  • Tryptophan Hydroxylase / metabolism


  • Estrogen Receptor alpha
  • Estrogen Receptor beta
  • RNA, Messenger
  • Serotonin
  • Tryptophan Hydroxylase