Sex steroids, including estrogens and androgens, play an important role in regulating energy homeostasis. Brain sex steroid signaling is required for normal body weight maintenance. We previously showed that estrogen receptor ? (ER?) neurons in the medial amygdala (MeA) stimulate physical activity and energy expenditure to decrease body weight in both males and females. It suggests that the estrogen/ER?MeA circuit constitutes part of a previously undefined brain metabolic signaling in both males and females. Interestingly, the MeA has high levels of other three key components of testosterone/estrogen signaling, including an essential enzyme for estrogen synthesis (aromatase; Aro), and key mediating receptors for testosterone/estrogen signaling (androgen receptor, estrogen receptor ? and ?; AR, ER? and ER?). These data raise the possibility that circulating testosterone directly binds to AR or is aromatized by Aro to estradiol, which then binds to ER? or ER? to exert metabolic functions. We hypothesize that the neurosteroid testosterone/estrogen signaling pathways in the MeA interact to maintain normal energy homeostasis. To test this, three mutant mice will be generated to have each of these three components deleted specifically in the MeA neurons, respectively. These mouse strains (both males and females) will be used to determine the physiological roles of these three components in maintaining energy homeostasis in different sexes. The functional interactions between these components and the sex hormones will also be examined. Results from these studies will advance our current understanding of body weight control and the development of obesity in general. Further, our studies may narrow down the brain regions and hormone/receptors that are critical for the regulation of energy balance, which may serve as targets for the development of new anti-obesity strategies.
Sex steroids regulate body weight and energy homeostasis, but central mechanisms underlying these effects are not fully elucidated. This research proposal aims to establish the medial amygdala as an integrating center for neurosteroid testosterone/estrogen signaling in energy homeostasis. Results from this work will provide some important clues regarding one of the fundamental mechanisms contributing to body weight control.