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See detailRapid testosterone-induced apparent diffusion coefficient (ADC) changes in the sexually dimorphic medial preoptic nucleus of male Japanese quail.
Van Der Linden, Annemie; De Groof, Geert; Charlier, Thierry ULg et al

Poster (2006)

Testosterone (T) influences the volume and cellular characteristics of a variety of steroid-dependent brain nuclei in many vertebrates. In castrated quail, the volume of the sexually dimorphic (males ... [more ▼]

Testosterone (T) influences the volume and cellular characteristics of a variety of steroid-dependent brain nuclei in many vertebrates. In castrated quail, the volume of the sexually dimorphic (males > females) medial preoptic nucleus (POM), a key area in the control of male sexual behavior, is markedly increased by T but previous studies always assessed this effect after a period of 8-14 days and its specific time-course was unknown. We recently found that following treatment with T, the POM volume increases in a time-dependent fashion: a significant increase was already detected after only one day and the response reached it maximum (volume doubling) after 14 days of treatment. This however raised the question of the cellular mechanism underlying such a rapid brain plasticity (increase in cell size, neuropil volume, dendritic branching, extracellular space?). To research whether a change in extra- vs. intra-cellular space could be responsible for the rapid T-induced increase in POM volume, we repeatedly analyzed by in vivo diffusion-weighted magnetic resonance imaging (DW-MRI) the brain of castrated male quail before as well as after 1, 2, 7 and 14 days of T implantation. MRI was performed on a 7T-system (Bruker) using a multislice diffusion weighted-spin echo sequence. Coronal slices with an image resolution of 100*100*500µm³ were obtained covering the whole telencephalon. Images were accurately coregistered allowing voxel-wise paired comparisons of the ADC data between the different time periods. The ADC significantly increased after one day of T treatment (696±16 vs 758±30 µm²/s, p=0.011, N=5) in POM and this effect apparently persisted during the whole experiment. By contrast, T insensitive regions like the nucleus rotundus (586±170 vs 511±26 µm²/s, p-value=0.24) and nucleus mesencephalicus lateralis, pars dorsalis (934±107 vs 911±64 µm²/s, p=0.68) were not affected after the first day nor later in the experiment. These data indicate that T increases the extracellular water volume in POM specifically, either as a result of cell shrinkage or of an increase in the space between cells, and that changes in the ratio of extra- to intra-cellular water mediate, at least in part, the fast plasticity of the POM volume observed after exposure to T. [less ▲]

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See detailCorticosteroid-binding capacity, but not total corticosterone, is decreased during lactation in rat dams
Pawluski, Jodi L; Charlier, Thierry ULg; Hammond, Geoffrey L et al

Poster (2006)

The role of corticosterone on the hippocampal structure and function is well documented in male rats. More recently research has shown that chronically stressed female rats with elevated corticosterone ... [more ▼]

The role of corticosterone on the hippocampal structure and function is well documented in male rats. More recently research has shown that chronically stressed female rats with elevated corticosterone levels, exhibit significant dendritic alterations in the hippocampus and, paradoxically, enhanced learning and memory performance. Similar changes have been shown with first reproductive experience (primiparity) compared to further reproductive experience (multiparity). We have shown that at the time of weaning, primiparous rats exhibit altered hippocampal morphology (Pawluski and Galea, 2006), decreased hippocampal cell survival (Pawluski and Galea 2006), and improved reference memory performance (Pawluski et al, 2006) compared to multiparous and virgin female rats. Therefore, given the similarities to what has been shown in the chronically stressed virgin female rat, it seems plausible that corticosterone may play an active role in mediating the alterations seen in primiparous rats. The present study aimed to investigate whether there are differences in the level of free circulating corticosterone during late pregnancy and the postpartum period with reproductive experience. Total corticosterone and corticosteroid-binding capacity were assayed from serum in five groups of rats; multiparous, primiparous, pregnant-only, pup-exposed virgins, and nulliparous rats on 6 days (2 days during gestation: days 14 and 19, and 4 days during lactation; days 1, 5, 14, and 21, where applicable). Results show that total corticosterone level on postpartum day 1 was significantly elevated compared to all other days. In addition, primiparous and multiparous rats have significantly lower corticosteroid-binding capacity throughout lactation. This suggests that primiparous and multiparous rats have more free-circulating corticosterone during lactation. Further research is needed to determine the mechanism underlying the changes in hippocampal structure and function with primiparity. [less ▲]

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See detailPlasticity in the expression of the steroid receptor coactivator 1 in the Japanese quail brain: effect of sex, testosterone, stress and time of the day.
Charlier, Thierry ULg; Ball, G. F.; Balthazart, Jacques ULg

in Neuroscience (2006), 140(4), 1381-94

Analysis of nuclear receptor action on the eukaryotic genome highlights the importance of coactivators on gene transcription. The steroid receptor coactivator-1 in particular is the focus of an intense ... [more ▼]

Analysis of nuclear receptor action on the eukaryotic genome highlights the importance of coactivators on gene transcription. The steroid receptor coactivator-1 in particular is the focus of an intense research and physiological or behavioral studies have confirmed that it plays a major role in the modulation of steroid and thyroid receptors activity. However, little is known about the regulation of steroid receptor coactivator-1 expression the brain. The goal of this study was to determine the potential factors modulating steroid receptor coactivator-1 synthesis in Japanese quail by quantification of its mRNA with real time quantitative polymerase chain reaction and of the corresponding protein via Western blotting. Contrary to previously published results from our laboratory [Charlier TD, Lakaye B, Ball GF, Balthazart J (2002) The steroid receptor coactivator SRC-1 exhibits high expression in steroid-sensitive brain areas regulating reproductive behaviors in the quail brain. Neuroendocrinology 76:297-315], we found here that sexually mature females had a higher concentration of steroid receptor coactivator-1 in the preoptic area/hypothalamus compared with males. Steroid receptor coactivator-1 expression in the male preoptic area/hypothalamus was up-regulated by testosterone and tended to be decreased by stress. We also identified a significant correlation between the time of the day and the expression of the coactivator in the optic lobes, hippocampus, telencephalon and hindbrain but the pattern of changes in expression as a function of the time of the day varied from one brain area to another. Together, these data support the idea that steroid receptor coactivator-1 is not constitutively expressed but rather is finely regulated by steroids, stress and possibly other unidentified factors. [less ▲]

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See detailTargeting steroid receptor coactivator-1 expression with locked nucleic acids antisense reveals different thresholds for the hormonal regulation of male sexual behavior in relation to aromatase activity and protein expression.
Charlier, Thierry ULg; Harada, Nobuhiro; Ball, Gregory F et al

in Behavioural Brain Research (2006), 172(2), 333-43

Steroid receptors such as the androgen and estrogen receptors require the presence of several proteins, known as coactivators, to enhance the transcription of target genes. The first goal of the present ... [more ▼]

Steroid receptors such as the androgen and estrogen receptors require the presence of several proteins, known as coactivators, to enhance the transcription of target genes. The first goal of the present study was to define the role of SRC-1 on the steroid-dependent expression of the aromatase protein and its activity in male Japanese quail. The second goal was to analyze the rapid plasticity of the POM following antisense treatment interruption. We confirm here that the inhibition of SRC-1 expression by daily intracerebroventricular injections of locked nucleic acid antisense oligonucleotides in the third ventricle at the level of the preoptic area-hypothalamus (HPOA) significantly reduces testosterone-dependent male sexual behavior. In the first experiment, aromatase protein expression in HPOA was inhibited in SRC-1-depleted males but the enzymatic activity remained at the level measured in controls. We observed in the second experiment a recovery of the behavioral response to testosterone treatment after interruption of the antisense injection. However, several morphological characteristics of the POM were not different between the control group, the antisense-treated birds and antisense-treated birds in which treatment had been discontinued 3 days earlier. Antisense was also less effective in knocking-down SRC-1 in the present experiments as compared to our previous study. An analysis of this variation in the degree of knock-down of SRC-1 expression suggests dissociation among different aspects of steroid action on brain and behavior presumably resulting from the differential sensitivity of behavioral and neurochemical responses to the activation by testosterone and/or its estrogenic metabolites. [less ▲]

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See detailRapid changes in production and behavioral action of estrogens
Balthazart, Jacques ULg; Baillien, Michelle; Charlier, Thierry ULg et al

in Trabajos del Instituto Cajal (2005), 80

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See detailEffects of calmodulin on aromatase activity in the preoptic area.
Balthazart, Jacques ULg; Baillien, M.; Charlier, Thierry ULg et al

in Journal of Neuroendocrinology (2005), 17(10), 664-71

Oestrogens derived from the neural aromatisation of testosterone play a key role in the activation of male sexual behaviour in many vertebrates. Besides their slow action on gene transcription mediated by ... [more ▼]

Oestrogens derived from the neural aromatisation of testosterone play a key role in the activation of male sexual behaviour in many vertebrates. Besides their slow action on gene transcription mediated by the binding to nuclear receptors, oestrogens have now been recognised to have more rapid membrane-based effects on brain function. Rapid changes in aromatase activity, and hence in local oestrogen concentrations, could thus rapidly modulate behavioural responses. We previously demonstrated that calcium-dependent kinases are able to down-regulate aromatase activity after incubations of 10-15 min in phosphorylating conditions. In the present study, in quail hypothalamic homogenates, we show that Ca2+ or calmodulin alone can very rapidly change aromatase activity. Preincubation with 1 mM EGTA or with a monoclonal antibody raised against calmodulin immediately increased aromatase activity. The presence of calmodulin on aromatase purified by immunoprecipitation and electrophoresis was previously identified by western blot and two consensus binding sites for Ca2+-calmodulin are identified here on the deduced amino acid sequence of the quail brain aromatase. The rapid control of brain aromatase activity thus appears to include two mechanisms: (i) an immediate regulatory process that involves the Ca2+-calmodulin binding site and (ii) a somewhat slower phosphorylation by several protein kinases (PKC, PKA but also possibly Ca2+-calmodulin kinases) of the aromatase molecule. [less ▲]

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See detailSexual behavior activates the expression of the immediate early genes c-fos and Zenk (egr-1) in catecholaminergic neurons of male Japanese quail.
Charlier, Thierry ULg; Ball, G. F.; Balthazart, Jacques ULg

in Neuroscience (2005), 131(1), 13-30

We analyzed the expression of the immediate early genes c-fos and Zenk (egr-1) in the brain of male quail that were gonadally intact (I) or castrated and treated (CX+T) or not (CX) with testosterone and ... [more ▼]

We analyzed the expression of the immediate early genes c-fos and Zenk (egr-1) in the brain of male quail that were gonadally intact (I) or castrated and treated (CX+T) or not (CX) with testosterone and had been exposed for 60 min either to a sexually mature female (F), or to an empty arena (EA) or were left in their home cage (HC). Alternate sections in the brains collected 90 min after the start of behavioral interactions were stained by immunocytochemistry for the proteins FOS or ZENK alone or in association with tyrosine hydroxylase (TH), a marker of catecholaminergic neurons. C-fos and Zenk expression was statistically increased in six brain areas of sexually active birds (I+F, CX+T+F) compared with controls (CX+F, CX+T+EA, CX+T+HC), i.e. the preoptic area, bed nucleus striae terminalis, arcopallium, nucleus intercollicularis, periaqueductal gray and the ventral tegmental area. Interestingly, c-fos and Zenk expression was high in the nucleus intercollicularis, a midbrain vocal control nucleus, of I+F and CX+T+F birds that displayed copulatory behavior but emitted few crows but not in the nucleus intercollicularis of CX+T+EA birds that crowed frequently. Increases in c-fos expression were observed in TH-immunoreactive cells in the periaqueductal gray and ventral tegmental area, but not in the substantia nigra, of I+F and CX+T+F birds indicating the activation of dopaminergic neurons during sexual behavior. Together, these data confirm the implication of the steroid-sensitive preoptic area and bed nucleus striae terminalis in the control of copulation and support the notion that dopamine is involved in its control. [less ▲]

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See detailInhibition of steroid receptor coactivator-1 blocks estrogen and androgen action on male sex behavior and associated brain plasticity.
Charlier, Thierry ULg; Ball, Gregory F; Balthazart, Jacques ULg

in Journal of Neuroscience (2005), 25(4), 906-13

Studies of eukaryotic gene expression demonstrate the importance of nuclear steroid receptor coactivators in mediating efficient gene transcription. However, little is known about the physiological role ... [more ▼]

Studies of eukaryotic gene expression demonstrate the importance of nuclear steroid receptor coactivators in mediating efficient gene transcription. However, little is known about the physiological role of these coactivators in vivo. In Japanese quail, the steroid receptor coactivator-1 (SRC-1) is broadly expressed in steroid-sensitive brain areas that control the expression of male copulatory behavior, and we investigated the role of this coactivator by antisense technology. Daily intracerebroventricular injections of locked nucleic acid (LNA) antisense (AS) oligonucleotides targeting SRC-1 significantly reduced the expression of androgen- and estrogen-dependent male-typical sexual behaviors compared with control animals that received the vehicle alone or scrambled oligonucleotides. Sexual behavior was restored and even enhanced within 48 h after interruption of LNA injections. Western blot analysis confirmed the decrease of SRC-1 expression in AS animals and suggested an overexpression 48 h after the end of injections. The effects of SRC-1 knock-down on behavior correlated with a reduction in volume of the preoptic medial nucleus (POM) when its borders were defined by Nissl staining or by aromatase immunohistochemistry. The amount of aromatase-immunoreactive material in POM was also reduced in the AS compared with the control group. Previous work on SRC-1 knock-out mice raised questions about the importance of this specific coactivator in the regulation of reproductive behavior and development of sexually dimorphic structures in the CNS. Together, the present findings indicate that SRC-1 modulates steroid-dependent gene transcription and behavior and highlight the rapid time course of steroid-induced brain plasticity in adult quail. [less ▲]

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See detailDaily changes in the expression of the steroid receptor coactivator SRC-1.
Charlier, Thierry ULg; Ball, Gregory F.; Balthazart, Jacques ULg

in Hormones & Behavior (2005), 48

Steroid receptor coactivators such as SRC-1 significantly modulate the expression of steroid-dependent physiological and behavioral characteristics in birds and mammals. Changes in coactivator protein ... [more ▼]

Steroid receptor coactivators such as SRC-1 significantly modulate the expression of steroid-dependent physiological and behavioral characteristics in birds and mammals. Changes in coactivator protein expression are therefore likely to affect receptor-mediated transcriptional activity. We previously reported a tissue-dependent regulation of SRC-1 mRNA and protein levels by sex, stress and testosterone in the quail brain. In addition, SRC-1 expression has been shown to vary in mammals during development or in adulthood as a function of seasonal variation in photoperiod. We describe here tissue-specific changes of SRC-1 expression over the course of the day in quail. SRC-1 protein quantified by Western blots in the hindbrain gradually increased in the morning, reached a peak around midday and declined significantly in the afternoon. In contrast, SRC-1 protein levels in the optic lobes progressively decreased in the morning to reach their lowest values around midday before rising in the afternoon. The coactivator concentration in the hippocampus exhibited a progressive increase throughout the day. No change in the SRC-1 protein was detected during the day in the preoptic area and in the cerebellum. The functional significance and the mechanisms of regulation underlying such changes remain to be understood. An important unresolved question is whether this diurnal variation in SRC-1 expression is circadian in nature and if so if SRC-1 is an active player linked to clock genes in the generation of circadian rhythms or if the observed changes in SRC-1 expression are a consequence of the rhythms generated by these genes. [less ▲]

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See detailModulation of steroid-dependent male sexual behavior and neural gene expression: A role for steroid receptor co-activators
Charlier, Thierry ULg; Ball, Gregory F; Balthazart, Jacques ULg

in Trabajos del Instituto Cajal (2005), 80

One of the best-characterized actions of steroids is the regulation of brain areas involved in endocrine function and in the activation of reproductive behaviors in male and female vertebrates. Progress ... [more ▼]

One of the best-characterized actions of steroids is the regulation of brain areas involved in endocrine function and in the activation of reproductive behaviors in male and female vertebrates. Progress in the understanding of the mechanisms that control the expression of the eukaryotic genome by nuclear receptors has brought forward the importance of steroid receptor coactivators in mediating efficient gene transcription. However, little is know about the specific physiological requirements of these coactivators in vivo. In Japanese quail, testosterone treatment of castrated males restores the full copulatory behavior and increases the volume of the sexually dimorphic medial preoptic nucleus (POM) to the level observed in intact males [1]. Testosterone also affects a number of sexually dimorphic neurochemical characteristics such as the vasotocineric innervation of the septum and meadial preoptic nucleus [2]. The quail therefore provides an excellent model to study steroid-dependent sexual behavior and the associated neuroplasticity and should provide insights into the modulation of steroid action by steroid receptor coactivators. The present studies were focused on the steroid receptor co-activator-1 (SRC-1), which was already shown to be involved in the process of sexual differentiation of brain and behavior in rats [3]. We first amplified by RT-PCR from quail brains a 3,411bp fragment highly homologous with the chicken (94.5%) and mammalian (70%) SRC-1 and designed digoxigenin-labeled oligonucleotides for in situ hybridization. A broad distribution of SRC-1 transcripts was observed throughout the male quail brain. A particularly dense coactivator expression was observed in limbic (e.g. POM, nucleus striae terminalis) and mesencephalic (e.g. substantia grisea centralis) nuclei associated with the control of male sexual behavior [4]. Because male and female quail exhibit a very pronounced sexual dimorphism in the steroid-dependent mechanisms that activate male-typical copulatory behavior, we investigated the potential role of SRC-1 in the sexually differentiated responses to steroids by quantifiying the SRC-1 mRNA by real time quantitative polymerase chain reaction (qPCR) and the corresponding protein by western blot (WB). Contrary to previous results, which had identified a higher SRC-1 mRNA expression in the POM of males compared to females [4], we found in two separate experiments that sexually mature females had higher concentrations of SRC-1 in the preoptic area-hypothalamus (HPOA) compared to males. Additional studies should be carried out to identify the origins of this discrepancy but seasonality and time of the day when brains were collected are potentially involved. We also quantified the SRC-1 mRNA and protein in the preoptic area-hypothalamus (HPOA) of castrated males treated or not with testosterone. SRC-1 mRNA was increased by testosterone in two independent experiments but not in a third one. This difference is likely due to the differential manipulations of the birds during these experiments. Birds had been repeatedly handled to test their sexual behavior in the first experiment and we showed that stress tends to decrease the coactivator expression in the male HPOA. This interpretation is strengthened by recent work in rats indicating that stress regulates SRC-1 expression in hypothalamus and hippocampus [5]. More surprisingly, we found a significant correlation between the expression of SRC-1 and the time of the day when birds were killed in the optic lobes, hippocampus and hindbrain. The expression of SRC-1 in the optic lobes increased throughout the day, independently of sex, testosterone treatment or stress. In the hippocampus and hindbrain, the coactivator concentration varied in opposite directions during the morning and afternoon and reached respectively its lowest or highest concentration around the middle of the day, here again independently of sex, stress and hormonal treatment. Together, these data support the idea that SRC-1 is not constitutively expressed but regulated by steroids, stress and possibly other unidentified factors. Differential controls also appear to take place in specific brain nuclei and these differential controls should be further analyzed by immunohistochemistry and in situ hybridization. A second part of our work was dedicated to the study of the physiological significance of SRC-1 whith the use of daily intra-cerebroventricular injections of modified antisense (AS) oligonucleotides (Locked nucleic acid LNA) to disrupt SRC-1 expression in the POM. AS injections significantly reduced the expression of male copulatory behavior in response to exogenous testosterone compared to control animals (Ctrl group) that received the vehicle alone or scrambled (SC) oligonucleotides. Moreover, sexual behavior was restored and even enhanced within 48 hours after interruption of AS injection (ASSC group). Western blot analysis confirmed the decrease of SRC-1 expression in AS animals and demonstrated an over-expression of the coactivator in ASSC animals. The effects of SRC-1 knock down on behavior was related to a reduced POM volume defined by Nissl-staining and aromatase immunohistochemistry. The aromatase index, indicative of the relative amount of aromatase in the POM as well as the vasotocinergic innervation of this nucleus were higher in the Ctrl group. Taken together, these findings indicate that SRC-1 functions as a critical regulatory molecule in the brain to modulate steroid-dependent gene transcription and behavior. The study of the modulation of nuclear receptors activity by different co-regulatory proteins is still in its infancy. Abnormal co-activator expression or function is currently being linked to some endocrine/neurological disorders in humans and it is thus critical to understand how co-activator expression and function are controlled in the developing as well as in the adult brain. [less ▲]

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See detailTestosterone rapidly increases the volume of the medial preoptic nucleus in male Japanese quail
Charlier, Thierry ULg; Ball, Gregory F.; Balthazart, Jacques ULg

Poster (2005)

In many vertebrate species, testosterone (T) influences the volume and cellular characteristics of a variety steroid-dependent nuclei, including the medial preoptic nucleus (POM) of male Japanese quail ... [more ▼]

In many vertebrate species, testosterone (T) influences the volume and cellular characteristics of a variety steroid-dependent nuclei, including the medial preoptic nucleus (POM) of male Japanese quail. The quail POM is a key nucleus in the control of male sexual behavior and exhibits a sex difference (larger in males than in females). In castrated quail, the POM volume is markedly increased by T but previous studies always assessed this effect after a period of 8-14 days and its specific time-course is unknown. We recently reported that antisense treatments suppressing steroid receptor coactivator-1 expression block T effects on POM volume but when treatment was discontinued, a significant increase of POM size occurred within two days. We therefore asked whether this rapid neuroanatomical change was specifically linked to the SCR-1 modulation or reflected the normal rate of T-induced effects. We collected brains from castrated male quail after 1, 2, 8 and 15 days of T treatment (CX+T) while in untreated castrates (CX) brains were collected after 1 or 15 days. The POM volume defined by Nissl staining increased in a time-dependent fashion in CX+T to reach a 40% increase after 15 days while no change was observed in CX. An increase in the average POM volume was detected on day 1 (13%) and this increase was statistically significant (25%) after only 2 days of exposure to T. No volume change was observed in the steroid-insensitive nucleus rotundus. The activation of male sexual behavior was positively correlated with the increase in POM volume. Because new neurons are not incorporated in the adult avian hypothalamus, these rapid volumetric changes must reflect increases in soma size, neuropile or extracellular space. The mechanisms underlying this unexpectedly rapid neural plasticity are currently under study, focusing in particular on the potential modifications of the steroid sensitive aromatase expressing cells. [less ▲]

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See detailModulation of steroid-dependent male sexual behavior and neural gene expression: a role for steroid receptor co-activators
Charlier, Thierry ULg; Ball, Gregory F.; Balthazart, Jacques ULg

in Dawson, Alister; Sharp, Peter J. (Eds.) Functional anvian endocrinology (2005)

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See detailModulation of hormonal signaling in the brain by steroid receptor coactivators.
Charlier, Thierry ULg; Balthazart, Jacques ULg

in Reviews in the Neurosciences (2005), 16(4), 339-57

Nuclear receptors, such as estrogen, glucocorticoid or thyroid hormone receptors, have been shown to play a critical role in brain development and physiology. The activity of these receptors is modulated ... [more ▼]

Nuclear receptors, such as estrogen, glucocorticoid or thyroid hormone receptors, have been shown to play a critical role in brain development and physiology. The activity of these receptors is modulated by the interaction with several proteins and, in particular, coactivators are required to enhance their transcriptional activity. The steroid receptor coactivators (SRC-1, -2 and -3) are currently the best characterized coactivators and we review here the current knowledge on the distribution and function of these proteins in the brain. Knock-out models and antisense techniques have demonstrated the requirement for SRC-1 and -2 in the brain, focusing mainly on steroid and thyroid hormone-dependent development and behavior. The precise function of SRC-3 in the brain is currently unknown but its presence throughout the brain suggests an important function. Although the molecular biology of SRCs is relatively well known, the in vivo control of their expression, post-translational modifications and time- and cell-specific interactions with the different nuclear receptors remain elusive. A complete understanding of hormone action on brain and behavior will not be attained until a better knowledge of coactivator physiology is achieved. [less ▲]

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