Aromatase is a key enzyme in estrogen biosynthesis that is involved in neuronal plasticity in the rodent hippocampus. Although aromatase mRNA expression has been detected in the human hippocampus, its cellular distribution has yet to be determined. Here, we have examined the immunohistochemical distribution of aromatase in the normal and the epileptic and sclerotic human hippocampus. In both the normal and epileptic hippocampus, aromatase was detected in numerous CA1-CA3 pyramidal neurons, in granule cells of the dentate gyrus and in interneurons that co-expressed the calcium-binding proteins calbindin, calretinin or parvalbumin. However, only a small subpopulation of astrocytes was immunoreactive for aromatase in either the normal and epileptic hippocampus. The widespread expression of aromatase in a large population of neurons in the normal and damaged hippocampus suggests that local estrogen formation may play an important role in human hippocampal function.
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