The Role Of Estrogen In Protection Against Neuropathology

It has been accepted dogma that "estrogen is good for the brain," in that the hormone was essential for the maintenance of normal neuronal viability and indeed survival (McEwen and Alves, 1999; Toran-Allerand et al.,1999). Recent experiments however, indicate a direct role for estrogen in protecting against neuropathology.

Specifically, Xu et al. (1998) demonstrated that estrogen inhibited toxic P-amy-loid generation by cultured neurons. Since one of the downstream events in neurons exposed to the prooxidant P-amyloid peptide is certain pathology-relevant phosphorylations of the tau protein (Takashima et al., 1998), it was not unreasonable to postulate that the reduction in circulating estrogen levels that occurs postmenopausally may render the brain vulnerable to molecular events such as aberrantly high levels of tau phosphorylations that could lead to neuropathology or neurodegeneration.

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