Regulation of astroglia by gonadal steroid hormones under physiological and pathological conditions

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Abstract

In the last years there has been a considerable advance in the knowledge on the regulation of astrocytes by sex steroids under physiological and pathological conditions. By the activation of a variety of nuclear and membrane receptors, sex steroid hormones regulate the functions of astrocytes and their communication with other cell types in the central nervous system. Under physiological conditions astrocytes participate in the neuroendocrine and behavioral actions of gonadal steroids, as well as in the hormonal control of brain tissue homeostasis. Under pathological conditions astrocytes mediate, at least partially, the neuroprotective effects of gonadal steroid hormones; given that sex steroids modulate reactive astrogliosis and reduce the release of pro-inflammatory molecules by these cells. Given the side effects that sex steroids may have when administered systemically, a number of synthetic agonists of the receptors for gonadal steroid hormones in the nervous system have been developed, and may be considered for clinical use after brain injury as potential enhancers of the neuroprotective astrocytic functions.

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