[en] This review summarizes current knowledge on the mechanisms that control aromatase activity in the quail preoptic area, a brain region that plays a key role in the control of reproduction. Aromatase and aromatase mRNA synthesis in the preoptic area are enhanced by testosterone and its metabolite estradiol, but estradiol receptors of the alpha subtype are not regularly colocalized with aromatase. Estradiol receptors of the beta subtype are present in the preoptic area but it is not yet known whether these receptors are colocalized with aromatase. The regulation by estrogen of aromatase activity may be, in part, trans-synaptically mediated, in a manner that is reminiscent of the ways in which steroids control the activity of gonadotropic hormone releasing hormone neurons, Aromatase-immunoreactive neurons are surrounded by dense networks of vasotocin-immunoreactive and tyrosine hydroxylase-immunoreactive fibers and punctate structures. These inputs are in part steroid-sensitive and could therefore mediate the effects of steroids on aromatase activity. In vivo pharmacological experiments indicate that catecholaminergic depletions significantly affect aromatase activity presumably by modulating aromatase transcription. In addition, in vitro studies on brain homogenates or on preoptic-hypothalamic explants show that aromatase activity can be rapidly modulated by a variety of dopaminergic compounds. These effects do not appear to be mediated by the membrane dopamine receptors and could involve changes in the phosphorylation state of the enzyme, Together, these results provide converging evidence for a direct control of aromatase activity by catecholamines consistent with the anatomical data indicating the presence of a catecholaminergic innervation of aromatase cells. These dopamine-induced changes in aromatase activity are observed after several hours or days and presumably result from changes in aromatase transcription but rapid non-genomic controls have also been identified. The potential significance of these processes for the physiology of reproduction is critically evaluated. (C) 2001 Elsevier Science BY. All rights reserved.