Astrocytes and microglia respond to estrogen with increased apoE mRNA in vivo and in vitro

Exp Neurol. 1997 Feb;143(2):313-8. doi: 10.1006/exnr.1996.6360.


This study examined the regulation of apolipoprotein E (apoE) by 17beta-estradiol (E2) in brain glia, using rats with regular ovulatory cycles as an in vivo model and cultured astrocytes and mixed glia as in vitro models. Two brain regions were examined which had demonstrated transient synaptic remodeling during the estrous cycle. In the hippocampal CA1 region and the hypothalamic arcuate nucleus, apoE mRNA was elevated at proestrus when plasma E2 was high and synaptic density was increasing. Both astrocytes and microglia contributed to this increase in apoE mRNA. In vitro, E2 treatment had no effect on apoE mRNA levels in monotypic cultures of either astrocytes or microglia. In contrast, mixed glial cultures responded to E2 with increased apoE mRNA and protein, suggesting that heterotypic cellular interactions are important in the brain response to estrogens. In situ hybridization in combination with cell-specific markers showed that E2 increased apoE mRNA levels in both astrocytes and microglia. These results, which are the first evidence of apoE mRNA localization to microglia in vivo and the control of apoE expression in brain cells by estrogens, are discussed in terms of the possible protective role of E2 in Alzheimer's disease and prior findings that emphasize the expression of apoE mRNA in astrocytes within the brain.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Apolipoproteins E / drug effects*
  • Apolipoproteins E / metabolism
  • Astrocytes / drug effects*
  • Estrogens / pharmacology*
  • Female
  • Hippocampus / drug effects
  • In Vitro Techniques
  • Microglia / drug effects*
  • Models, Neurological
  • RNA, Messenger / metabolism*
  • Rats
  • Rats, Inbred F344


  • Apolipoproteins E
  • Estrogens
  • RNA, Messenger