Are catechol oestrogens obligatory mediators of oestrogen action in the central nervous system? II. Potencies of natural and synthetic oestrogens for induction of gonadotrophin release and female sexual behaviour in the rat

N. J. MacLusky, L. C. Krey, B. Parsons, G. R. Merriam, Donald (Lynn) Loriaux, D. G. Pfeiffer, F. Naftolin

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The role of catechol oestrogen formation in the mechanism by which circulating oestrogens facilitate gonadotrophin release and female sexual behaviour was explored in adult female rats. The effects of oestradiol-17β were compared with those of a group of oestrogens with either a reduced affinity for oestrogen receptors (oestradiol-17α) or a reduced ability to act as substrates for catechol oestrogen formation (2-fluoro-oestradiol, 4-fluoro-oestradiol and moxestrol (11β-methoxy-17α-ethynyloestradiol). Rats were ovariectomized on the evening of dioestrus day 1 of the 4-day oestrous cycle and implanted s.c. 12 h later with infusion pumps containing either one of the test oestrogens or vehicle alone. Infusion rates for oestradiol-17β, moxestrol, 2-fluoro-oestradiol and 4-fluoro-oestradiol were adjusted to give concentrations of nuclear oestrogen receptors in the brain and pituitary gland within the range of those found in intact female rats during pro-oestrus. Oestradiol-17α was infused at the same and at a tenfold higher rate than that of oestradiol-17β; neither of these treatments with oestradiol-17α significantly increased brain or pituitary gland nuclear oestrogen receptor levels. On the day after the pump was implanted, samples of tail vein blood were withdrawn at 12.00, 14.00, 16.00 and 18.00 h for LH assay. All animals were then injected s.c. with 1 mg progesterone in propylene glycol, and tested for feminine sexual behaviour 5 h later. Oestradiol-17β, moxestrol, 2-fluoro-oestradiol and 4-fluoro-oestradiol all elicited pronounced LH surges and facilitated progesterone-triggered proceptive and lordosis behaviours. In contrast, oestradiol-17α was without effect on LH secretion and sexual behaviours. These results are consistent with the hypothesis that catechol oestrogen biosynthesis is not an obligatory step in the mechanism by which circulating oestrogens induce LH release and feminine sexual behaviour in the rat.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)499-505
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Endocrinology
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1986
Externally publishedYes


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Endocrinology

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