Injury to the vertebrate brain causes neuroinflammation, characterized in part by increases in prostaglandins. In rodents and songbirds, brain injury also induces the transcription and translation of aromatase in reactive astrocytes around the site of damage. Interestingly, this induction is more rapid in female zebra finches relative to males. Induced aromatization is neuroprotective, as inhibition of aromatase and estrogen replacement, increases and decreases the extent of damage, respectively. Although the consequences of induced astrocytic aromatization are intensely studied, little is known about what factors induce aromatase. Inflammation is sufficient to induce astrocytic aromatase suggesting that the link between inflammation and aromatase expression may be causal. To test this hypothesis, adult male and female zebra finches received bilateral mechanical injuries through which either the cyclooxygenase (COX)-1/2 inhibitor indomethacin or vehicle was administered into contralateral hemispheres. Subjects were killed either 6 or 24 hours after injury. In both sexes, an enzyme immunoassay for prostaglandin E2 (PGE2) revealed that indomethacin decreased PGE2 relative to the contralateral hemisphere at both time points, suggesting that the dose and mode of administration used were successful in affecting neuroinflammation locally. Indomethacin reduced aromatase expression and 17β-estradiol (E2) content at 6 hours but not 24 hours following injury in females. However, in males, the inhibitory effect of indomethacin on aromatase and E2 was apparent at 24 but not 6 hours after treatment. These data suggest that COX activity, perhaps via consequent prostaglandin secretion, may induce aromatase expression and central E2, an effect that is detectable in temporally distinct patterns between sexes.
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