Localization of androgen and estrogen receptors in rat and primate tissues


  • Georges Pelletier


sex steroid receptors, pituitary gland, testis, ovary, prostate, uterus


There is now evidence that estrogens and androgens are exerting their effects in different tissues throughout the body. In order to determine the sites of action of these steroids, studies have been performed to identify at the cellular level the localization of androgen receptor (AR) and the two estrogen receptor (ER) subtypes, ERα and ERβ, specially in the rat, monkey and human. In the prostate, AR was observed in the secretory and stromal cells. In the testis, Sertoli, Leydig and myoid cells were labelled. In the epididymis and seminal vesicles, both epithelial and stromal cells contained AR. In the ovary, AR was detected in granulosa and interstitial cells. In the uterus, epithelial, stromal and muscle cells were all immunopositive for AR. In the central nervous system, AR-containing neurons were found to be widely distributed throughout the brain. In the mammary gland, epithelial cells in acini and ducts and stromal cells were demonstrated to express AR. In the skin, AR was detected in keratinocytes, sebaceous and sweat glands, and hair follicles. In addition, AR was also found in anterior pituitary, thyroid, adrenal cortex, liver, kidney tubules, urinary bladder, cardiac and striated muscle, and bone. The ER subtypes are in general differentially expressed. While ERα has been predominantly found in anterior pituitary, uterus, vagina, testis, liver and kidney, ERβ is predominant in thyroid, ovary, prostate, skin, bladder, lungs, gastro-intestinal tract, cartilage and bone. In tissues which contain both receptor subtypes, such as ovary, testis and various regions of the brain, a cellspecific localization for each ER subtype has been generally observed. Altogether, the recent results on the cellular localization of sex steroid receptors will certainly contribute to a better understanding of the specific role of these steroids in different target organs.




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