The effects of estrogen therapy can differ depending on the regimen of estrogen administration. In addition, estrogen can modulate the effects of stressors. To examine the interaction between these systems, we infused adult female rats with lipopolysaccharide (LPS) into the fourth ventricle of the brain for 6 d and compared the effects of constant and pulsed estrogen replacement. Constant, but not pulsed, estrogen treatment reduced estrogen receptor-α (ERα) protein by 90% in the uterus and increased heat-shock proteins 70 and 90 by 74 and 48%, respectively, whereas progesterone receptor levels increased in all ovariectomized rats receiving estrogen replacement. In contrast to the uterine decline in ERα, no changes in ERα were observed in the hypothalamus or hippocampus, and ERβ levels were unchanged in all regions tested. Brain infusion of LPS did not alter these proteins but increased the number of activated microglia in the thalamus and reduced body weight in all rats as well as activated the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis in ovariectomized rats, as determined by elevations in circulating corticosterone and progesterone. Estrogen treatments did not alter these markers, and no differences were observed in cortical choline acetyltransferase activity or nitrotyrosine for any of the treatment groups. The current study found an unexpected increase in uterine weight in lipopolysaccharide-infused rats treated with constant, but not pulsed, estrogen. This report suggests that constant and pulsed regimens of estrogen administration produce different effects and that stress may be an important factor in the postmenopausal intervention with estrogen.
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