In the ever-changing physiological context of the neuroendocrine brain, the mechanisms by which cellular events involving neurons, astroglia, and vascular cells are coordinated to bring forth the appropriate neuronal signaling is not yet known but is amenable to examination. In the median eminence of the hypothalamus, endothelial cells are key players in the plasticity of tanycytes (specialized astroglia) and neuroendocrine synapse efficacy. Here we report that estradiol acts on both purified endothelial cells and isolated tanycytes to trigger endothelial-to-glial communication that leads to a sudden and massive retraction of tanycyte processes. The blockade of endothelial nitric oxide synthase by in vitro adenoviral-mediated gene transfer of a dominant-negative form of endothelial nitric oxide synthase abrogates the estradiol-induced tanycyte plasticity mediated by endothelial cells. In parallel, increases in prostaglandin-E2 (PGE2) due to changes in cyclooxygenase (COX)-1 and COX-2 expression induced by the exposure of tanycytes to estradiol promote acute tanycyte plasticity. We also demonstrate by electron microscopy that the administration of PGE2 to median eminence explants induces rapid neuroglial plasticity at the neurovascular junction of neurons that release GnRH (the neuropeptide controlling reproduction). Conversely, preventing local PGE2 synthesis in the median eminence of adult female rats with the COX inhibitor indomethacin impairs the ovarian cycle, a process that requires a pulsatile, coordinated delivery of GnRH into the hypothalamo-hypophyseal portal system. Taken together, our findings show that estradiol controls the dialog between endothelial cells and astroglia to regulate neuroglial plasticity in the neuroendocrine brain.
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