Differential regulation of NMDAR1 mRNA and protein by estradiol in the rat hippocampus

J Neurosci. 1996 Nov 1;16(21):6830-8. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.16-21-06830.1996.


Estradiol treatment increases the number of NMDA receptor binding sites, and changes evoked synaptic currents in a manner consistent with a steroid-induced functional enhancement of NMDA receptors in rat hippocampus. In this study, we investigate the cellular mechanisms of estradiol-induced NMDA receptor regulation at the protein and mRNA levels in ovariectomized rats treated with ovarian steroids using immunocytochemical and in situ hybridization techniques. Confocal laser scanning microscopy was used to quantify alterations in immunofluorescence intensity levels of NMDAR1 subunit proteins within neuronal somata and dendrites of discrete hippocampal fields, whereas in parallel, in situ hybridization was used to examine NMDAR1 mRNA levels in corresponding hippocampal regions. The data indicate that estradiol treatment in ovariectomized rats significantly increases immunofluorescence intensity levels in comparison with nonsteroid treated ovariectomized rats within the somata and dendrites of CA1 pyramidal cells and, to a lesser extent, within the granule cell somata of the dentate gyrus. In contrast, such alterations in immunofluorescence intensity occur without concomitant changes in mRNA hybridization levels. Thus, these data suggest that estradiol modulates NMDA receptor function via post-transcriptional regulation of the NMDAR1 subunit protein. The increase in immunofluorescence intensity may reflect an increase in the concentration of the subunit protein, which could account for estrogen-induced changes in pharmacological and physiological properties of the NMDA receptor.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Autoradiography
  • Blotting, Western
  • Dendrites / chemistry
  • Dendrites / physiology
  • Estradiol / pharmacology*
  • Female
  • Fluorescent Antibody Technique
  • Gene Expression Regulation / drug effects
  • Hippocampus / cytology*
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • In Situ Hybridization
  • Microscopy, Confocal
  • Neurons / chemistry
  • Neurons / physiology
  • Neurons / ultrastructure
  • Ovariectomy
  • Progesterone / pharmacology
  • RNA, Messenger / metabolism
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Receptors, N-Methyl-D-Aspartate / analysis
  • Receptors, N-Methyl-D-Aspartate / genetics*
  • Transcription, Genetic / drug effects


  • RNA, Messenger
  • Receptors, N-Methyl-D-Aspartate
  • Progesterone
  • Estradiol