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Brain-synthesized oestrogens regulate cortical migration in a sexually divergent manner

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Katherine J Sellers, Matthew C S Denley, Atsushi Saito, Evangeline M Foster, Irene Salgarella, Alessio Delogu, Atsushi Kamiya, Deepak P Srivastava

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2646-2663
Number of pages18
JournalEuropean Journal of Neuroscience
Issue number1
Early online date20 Apr 2020
E-pub ahead of print20 Apr 2020
Published1 Jul 2020

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King's Authors


Oestrogens play an important role in brain development where they have been implicated in controlling various cellular processes. Several lines of evidence have been presented showing that oestrogens can be synthesized locally within the brain. Studies have demonstrated that aromatase, the enzyme responsible for the conversion of androgens to oestrogens, is expressed during early development in both male and female cortices. Furthermore, 17β-oestradiol has been measured in foetal brain tissue from multiple species. 17β-oestradiol regulates neural progenitor proliferation as well as the development of early neuronal morphology. However, what role locally derived oestrogens play in regulating cortical migration and, moreover, whether these effects are the same in males and females are unknown. Here, we investigated the impact of knockdown expression of Cyp19a1, which encodes aromatase, between embryonic day (E) 14.5 and postnatal day 0 (P0) had on neural migration within the cortex. Aromatase was expressed in the developing cortex of both sexes, but at significantly higher levels in male than female mice. Under basal conditions, no obvious differences in cortical migration between male and female mice were observed. However, knockdown of Cyp19a1 resulted in an increase in cells within the cortical plate, and a concurrent decrease in the subventricular zone/ventricular zone in P0 male mice. Interestingly, the opposite effect was observed in females, who displayed a significant reduction in cells migrating to the cortical plate. Together, these findings indicate that brain-derived oestrogens regulate radial migration through distinct mechanisms in males and females.

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