Estrogen receptor-immunoreactive glia, endothelia, and ependyma in guinea pig preoptic area and median eminence: electron microscopy

Endocrinology. 1992 Jan;130(1):364-72. doi: 10.1210/endo.130.1.1727710.


The presence of estrogen receptors (ERs) in nonneural cells in brain, including glia, ependyma, and endothelia, has not previously been documented with electron microscopy. This study employed immunocytochemistry to investigate whether ER immunoreactivity (ER-ir) is present in glial, ependymal, or endothelial cells in the medial preoptic area (POA) and median eminence (ME) in the brain of gonadally intact female guinea pigs. Tissue sections through these regions were immunostained with monoclonal antibody H222 for ER localization using 3,3',5,5'-tetramethylbenzidine (TMB) as the chromogen. ER-ir cells were identified ultrastructurally by the presence of distinct spicule-like TMB crystals in nuclei. While neurons constituted the clear majority of ER-immunopositive cells, labeled astrocytes, ependyma, and endothelia were also present. Distinct intranuclear TMB crystals were present in astrocytes at the anterior pole of the POA within the preventricular periventricular nucleus, anterior compact subnucleus of the medial preoptic nucleus (MPNa), and organum vasculosum of the lamina terminalis, indicating ER-ir. In the MPNa, cell counts performed at the ultrastructural level revealed that 9.6% (15 of 156) of the astrocytes were ER-ir. To further explore the relationship of ERs with astrocytes, ER/glial fibrillary acidic protein (GFAP) double labeling experiments were performed using TMB and diaminobenzidine tetrahydrochloride for ER and GFAP localization, respectively. These studies verified the presence of ERs in astrocytes at the anterior pole of the POA and demonstrated the presence of ERs in GFAP-ir cells in the ME. Cell counts at the ME showed that 23 of 50 (46%) GFAP-ir cells were ER-ir. ER-ir was also present in scattered ependymal cells lining the third ventricle at the POA and overlying the ME. Typically, approximately four to eight ER-ir ependymal cells were present around the perimeter of the third ventricle, although occasionally small aggregations of greater numbers of labeled cells were observed. Both common ependyma and cells morphologically identified as tanycytes were ER-ir. Some endothelial cells and vascular smooth muscle cells also contained ERs. While approximately 11% of the vessels were lined by ER-ir cells in sections through the MPNa and preventricular periventricular nucleus, approximately 15% of the vessels were labeled in the organum vasculosum of the lamina terminalis. In the ME a greater percentage (59%) of the vessels contained ER-ir endothelial cells. Collectively, these results indicate that in addition to regulating the activity of neurons, estrogen may affect brain function through effects exerted on astrocytes, ependymal cells, and endothelial cells.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Endothelium / chemistry*
  • Endothelium / ultrastructure
  • Ependyma / chemistry*
  • Ependyma / ultrastructure
  • Female
  • Guinea Pigs
  • Median Eminence / chemistry*
  • Median Eminence / ultrastructure
  • Microscopy, Electron
  • Neuroglia / chemistry*
  • Neuroglia / ultrastructure
  • Preoptic Area / chemistry*
  • Preoptic Area / ultrastructure
  • Receptors, Estrogen / analysis*
  • Receptors, Estrogen / immunology


  • Receptors, Estrogen