Journal of Endocrinology

 Transcriptional activity of oestrogen receptors in the course of embryo development

Oestrogens are well-known proliferation and differentiation factors that play an essential role in the correct development of sex-related organs and behaviour in mammals. With the use of the ERE-Luc reporter mouse model, we show herein that throughout mouse development, oestrogen receptors (ERs) are active starting from day 12 post conception. Most interestingly, we show that prenatal luciferase expression in each organ is proportionally different in relation to the germ layer of the origin. The luciferase content is highest in ectoderm-derived organs (such as brain and skin) and is lowest in endoderm-derived organs (such as liver, lung, thymus and intestine). Consistent with the testosterone surge occurring in male mice at the end of pregnancy, in the first 2 days after birth, we observed a significant increase in the luciferase content in several organs, including the liver, bone, gonads and hindbrain. The results of the present study show a widespread transcriptional activity of ERs in developing embryos, pointing to the potential contribution of these receptors in the development of non-reproductive as well as reproductive organs. Consequently, the findings reported here might be relevant in explaining the significant differences in male and female physiopathology reported by a growing number of studies and may underline the necessity for more systematic analyses aimed at the identification of the prenatal effects of drugs interfering with ER signalling, such as aromatase inhibitors or endocrine disrupter chemicals.