The healthy cell bias of estrogen action: mitochondrial bioenergetics and neurological implications

Trends Neurosci. 2008 Oct;31(10):529-37. doi: 10.1016/j.tins.2008.07.003. Epub 2008 Sep 4.


The 'healthy cell bias of estrogen action' hypothesis examines the role that regulating mitochondrial function and bioenergetics play in promoting neural health and the mechanistic crossroads that lead to divergent outcomes following estrogen exposure. Estrogen-induced signaling pathways in hippocampal and cortical neurons converge upon the mitochondria to enhance aerobic glycolysis coupled to the citric acid cycle, mitochondrial respiration and ATP generation. Convergence of estrogen-induced signaling onto mitochondria is also a point of vulnerability when activated in diseased neurons which exacerbates degeneration through increased load on dysregulated calcium homeostasis. As the continuum of neurological health progresses from healthy to unhealthy so too do the benefits of estrogen or hormone therapy. The healthy cell bias of estrogen action hypothesis provides a lens through which to assess disparities in outcomes across basic and clinical science and on which to predict outcomes of estrogen interventions for sustaining neurological health and preventing age-associated neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Energy Metabolism / drug effects*
  • Estrogens / pharmacology*
  • Humans
  • Mitochondria / drug effects*
  • Mitochondria / physiology
  • Models, Biological
  • Nervous System Diseases / metabolism
  • Nervous System Diseases / physiopathology
  • Nervous System Diseases / prevention & control
  • Neurons / drug effects*
  • Neurons / physiology
  • Neurons / ultrastructure


  • Estrogens