Estrogens, acting on both estrogen receptors alpha (ERalpha) and beta (ERbeta) are recognized as important regulators of glucose homeostasis and lipid metabolism. ERs belong to the family of nuclear hormone receptors which mainly act as ligand activated transcription factors. Both ERs are expressed in metabolic tissue such as adipose tissue, skeletal muscle, liver and pancreas, as well as in the central nervous system. Expression pattern of both ERs differ between species, sexes, and specific tissues. The present review will focus on the key effects of ERs on glucose- and lipid metabolism. It appears that ERalpha mainly mediates beneficial metabolic effects of estrogens such as anti-lipogenesis, improvement of insulin sensitivity and glucose tolerance, and reduction of body weight/fat mass. In contrast, ERbeta activation seems to be detrimental for the maintenance of regular glucose and lipid homeostasis. Metabolic actions of both receptors in relevant tissues will be discussed.
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