Role of pituitary hormones on 17alpha-ethinylestradiol-induced cholestasis in rat

J Pharmacol Exp Ther. 2007 Feb;320(2):695-705. doi: 10.1124/jpet.106.113209. Epub 2006 Nov 15.


Estrogens cause intrahepatic cholestasis in susceptible women during pregnancy, after administration of oral contraceptives, or during postmenopausal hormone replacement therapy. 17alpha-Ethinylestradiol (EE) is a synthetic estrogen widely used to cause experimental cholestasis in rodents with the aim of examining molecular mechanisms involved in this disease. EE actions on the liver are thought to be mediated by estrogen receptor alpha (ERalpha) and pituitary hormones. We tested this hypothesis by analyzing metabolic changes induced by EE in livers from hypophysectomized (HYPOX) and hypothyroid rats. Microarray studies revealed that the number of genes regulated by EE was increased almost 4-fold in HYPOX rat livers compared with intact males. Little overlap was apparent between the effects of EE in intact and HYPOX rats, demonstrating that pituitary hormones play a critical role in the hepatic effects of EE. Consistently, hypophysectomy protects the liver against induction by EE of serum bilirubin and alkaline phosphatase, two markers of cholestasis and hepatotoxicity and modulates the effects of EE on several genes involved in bile acid homeostasis (e.g., FXR, SHP, BSEP, and Cyp8b1). Finally, we demonstrate a novel mechanism of action of EE through binding and negative regulation of glucocorticoid receptor-mediated transcription. In summary, pituitary- and ERalpha-independent mechanisms contribute to development of EE-induced changes in liver transcriptome. Such mechanisms may be relevant when this model of EE-induced cholestasis is evaluated. The observation that the pharmacological effects of estrogen in liver differ in the absence or presence of the pituitary could be clinically relevant, because different drugs that block actions of pituitary hormones are now available.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Bile Acids and Salts / genetics
  • Cholestanetriol 26-Monooxygenase / genetics
  • Cholestasis / chemically induced*
  • Ethinyl Estradiol / toxicity*
  • Fatty Acids / metabolism
  • Gene Expression Profiling
  • Growth Hormone / physiology
  • Hypophysectomy
  • Liver / drug effects
  • Liver / metabolism
  • Male
  • Pituitary Hormones / physiology*
  • RNA, Messenger / analysis
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley


  • Bile Acids and Salts
  • Fatty Acids
  • Pituitary Hormones
  • RNA, Messenger
  • Ethinyl Estradiol
  • Growth Hormone
  • Cholestanetriol 26-Monooxygenase