Activation of the peripheral immune system regulates neuronal aromatase in the adult zebra finch brain

Sci Rep. 2017 Aug 31;7(1):10191. doi: 10.1038/s41598-017-10573-x.


Estradiol provision via neural aromatization decreases neuro-inflammation and -degeneration, but almost nothing is known about the interactions between the peripheral immune system and brain aromatase. Given the vulnerability of the CNS we reasoned that brain aromatization may protect circuits from the threats of peripheral infection; perhaps shielding cells that are less resilient from the degeneration associated with peripheral infection or trauma. Lipopolysaccharide (LPS) or vehicle was administered peripherally to adult zebra finches and sickness behavior was recorded 2 or 24 hours later. The central transcription of cytokines and aromatase was measured, as were telencephalic aromatase activity and immunoreactive aromatase (24 hour time point only). Two hours post LPS, sickness-like behaviors increased, the transcription of IL-1β was higher in both sexes, and TNFα was elevated in females. 24 hours post-LPS, the behavior of LPS birds was similar to controls, and cytokines had returned to baseline, but aromatase mRNA and activity were elevated in both sexes. Immunocytochemistry revealed greater numbers of aromatase-expressing neurons in LPS birds. These data suggest that the activation of the immune system via peripheral endotoxin increases neuronal aromatase; a mechanism that may rapidly generate a potent anti-neuroinflammatory steroid in response to peripheral activation of the immune system.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Aromatase / genetics*
  • Aromatase / metabolism*
  • Avian Proteins / genetics
  • Avian Proteins / metabolism
  • Behavior, Animal / drug effects
  • Brain / metabolism
  • Cytokines / genetics*
  • Female
  • Finches / genetics
  • Finches / immunology
  • Finches / metabolism*
  • Gene Expression Regulation / drug effects
  • Interleukin-1beta / genetics
  • Lipopolysaccharides / adverse effects*
  • Lipopolysaccharides / pharmacology
  • Male
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha / genetics


  • Avian Proteins
  • Cytokines
  • Interleukin-1beta
  • Lipopolysaccharides
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha
  • Aromatase