Lipocalin 2 Deficiency Alters Estradiol Production and Estrogen Receptor Signaling in Female Mice

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We have previously characterized lipocalin 2 (Lcn2) as a new adipokine having a critical role in energy and lipid metabolism in male mice. Previous studies by others have suggested that Lcn2 is a putative target gene of estrogens. In this study, we reported the effect of Lcn2 deficiency on estradiol biosynthesis and estrogen receptor signaling in female Lcn2-deficient (Lcn2−/−) mice. We found that Lcn2 expression in white adipose tissue is gender, depot, and age dependent. In female mice, Lcn2 is predominantly expressed in inguinal adipose tissue but at relatively very low levels in perigonadal depot and ovary. After 22 wk of high-fat diet (HFD) feeding or at old age, Lcn2−/− female mice had significantly reduced levels of serum 17β-estradiol and down-regulated expression of estrogen receptor α in multiple metabolic tissues. Consistently, the expression of estrogen-regulated genes involved in cholesterol homeostasis, such as liver X receptor β and low-density lipoprotein receptor was also down-regulated in the adipose tissue of Lcn2−/− mice. These changes were in line with the development of atherogenic dyslipidemia in response to HFD feeding; female Lcn2−/− mice had significantly elevated levels of total cholesterol and low-density lipoprotein cholesterol, whereas reduced high-density lipoprotein cholesterol levels compared with wild-type female mice. Interestingly, when compared with wild-type controls, HFD-fed female Lcn2−/− mice had significantly reduced expression levels of aromatase, a key enzyme regulating estradiol biosynthesis, in adipose tissue. Moreover, Lcn2 deficiency markedly blunted age-related increase in adipose aromatase expression but had no significant impact on age-related reduction in ovarian aromatase expression. Our findings suggest that Lcn2 has a tissue-specific role in adipose estradiol biosynthesis, which may link Lcn2 to obesity- and age-related estradiol production and metabolic complications in females.

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