To investigate the role of androgen receptors in the regulation of brain aromatase activity (AA) in adult rats, the levels of AA in discrete brain areas of androgen-insensitive testicular feminized (Tfm) rats were compared with those in their normal male littermates (NL). AA was measured in homogenates of brain tissue by using a radiometric assay that quantifies the production of 3H2O from [lβ-3H]androstenedione as an index of estrogen formation. Initially, we assessed the capability of block-dissected tissues to aromatize androgens. We found that the AA in the amygdala and hypothalamus-preoptic area of Tfm rats was significantly lower (p < 0.001) than the AA in NL despite the fact that circulating androgen concentrations in the Tfm were significantly higher. Kinetics studies demonstrated that the apparent Michaelis constant was equivalent for both groups (0.02-0.03 µM)- Administration of testosterone propionate to castrated males produced 3 to 4-fold elevations of AA in NL, but did not affect brain AA in Tfm rats. To pinpoint specific sites where AA is affected in Tfm rats, we measured AA in 10 hypothalamic and limbic nuclei that were dissected from 300-µm frozen brain sections. Compared to NL, Tfm rats exhibited significantly lower levels of AA in all microdissected brain regions studied, except for the medial and cortical amygdala. These data provide genetic evidence for both androgen-dependent and independent regulation of AA in the rat brain.
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