17β-estradiol acutely potentiates glutamatergic synaptic transmission in the hippocampus through distinct mechanisms in males and females

Joseph G. Oberlander, Catherine S. Woolley*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

107 Scopus citations

Abstract

Estradiol (E2) acutely potentiates glutamatergic synaptic transmission in the hippocampus of both male and female rats. Here, we investigated whether E2-induced synaptic potentiation occurs via presynaptic and/or postsynaptic mechanisms and which estrogen receptors (ERs) mediate E2's effects in each sex. Whole-cell voltage-clamp recordings of mEPSCs in CA1 pyramidal neurons showed that E2 increases both mEPSC frequency and amplitude within minutes, but often in different cells. This indicated that both presynaptic and postsynaptic mechanisms are involved, but that they occur largely at different synapses. Two-photon (2p) glutamate uncaging at individual dendritic spines showed that E2 increases the amplitude of uncaging-evoked EPSCs (2pEPSCs) and calcium transients (2pCaTs) at a subset of spines on a dendrite, demonstrating synapse specificity of E2's postsynaptic effects. All of these results were essentially the same in males and females. However, additional experiments using ER-selective agonists indicated sex differences in the mechanisms underlying E2-induced potentiation. In males, an ERβ agonist mimicked the postsynaptic effects of E2 to increase mEPSC, 2pEPSC, and 2pCaT amplitude, whereas in females, these effects were mimicked by an agonist of G protein-coupled ER-1. The presynaptic effect of E2, increased mEPSC frequency, was mimicked by an ERα agonist in males, whereas in females, an ERβ agonist increased mEPSC frequency. Thus, E2 acutely potentiates glutamatergic synapses similarly in both sexes, but distinct ER subtypes mediate the presynaptic and postsynaptic aspects of potentiation in each sex. This indicates a latent sex difference in which different molecular mechanisms converge to the same functional endpoint in males versus females.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2677-2690
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Neuroscience
Volume36
Issue number9
DOIs
StatePublished - Mar 2 2016

Keywords

  • Dendritic spines
  • Estrogen receptor
  • Sex difference
  • Synapse

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)

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