Estradiol protects against injury-induced cell death in cortical explant cultures: A role for estrogen receptors

Melinda E. Wilson, Dena B. Dubal, Phyllis M. Wise

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

119 Scopus citations


Estradiol has been shown to exert trophic and protective actions in the brain. Our laboratory has shown that in vivo, low physiological levels of estradiol protect the female rat brain against ischemic injury. In the present study, we used organotypic cortical explant cultures to begin to decipher the mechanisms of estradiol's actions. Injury was induced by exposure to kainic acid or potassium cyanide/2-deoxyglucose (KCN/2-DG) for varying lengths of time, and cell death was monitored by LDH release at 2, 6, 12, 24, 48, 72 and 96 h after injury. We found that exposure to 1 mM KCN/2 mM 2-DG for 2 h produced consistent delayed cell death that was detectable by 24 h. The presence of 17β-estradiol (E2) during the 7 days prior to injury significantly reduced the extent of cell death; whereas, administration of E2 at the time of injury did not protect. The protective effects of estradiol were dose dependent. Low doses of E2 (1, 10, and 30 nM) significantly reduced cell death; however, higher concentrations of E2 (>60 nM) had no protective effect. The observations that low levels of E2 protect against cell death, and that pretreatment is required suggest that the protective actions of estradiol may involve estrogen receptors. Therefore, we examined the ability of 17α-estradiol, which does not efficiently activate the estrogen receptor, and the addition of the estrogen receptor antagonist, ICI 182,780, to influence the extent of cell death induced by KCN/2-DG. 17α-Estradiol failed to protect, and ICI 182,780 prevented E2 from protecting against cell death. Furthermore, E2 pretreatment is required for more than 24 h to be neuroprotective. Our results clearly show that in cortical explant cultures, estradiol protects cells against ischemic injury, and suggest that these protective actions involve estrogen receptors. (C) 2000 Elsevier Science B.V.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)235-242
Number of pages8
JournalBrain Research
Issue number2
StatePublished - Aug 11 2000

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Supported by NIH AG05818 (MEW), Glenn Foundation/American Federation for Aging Research Scholarship (DBD), DBD is a predoctoral trainee on NIH Training Grant AG00242, NIH AG02224 (PMW) and University of Kentucky Vice Chancellor’s Research Funds (PMW).


  • Cell death
  • Cortex
  • Estradiol
  • Explants
  • In vitro
  • Ischemia
  • Neuroprotection

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Neuroscience
  • Molecular Biology
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Developmental Biology


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