The impact of 17beta-estradiol on the estrogen-deficient female brain: from mechanisms to therapy with hot flushes as target symptoms




0000-0001-5595-1346 (Prokai-Tatrai, Katalin)
0000-0002-4559-3458 (Prokai, Laszlo)

Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title


Frontiers Media S.A.


Sex steroids are essential for whole body development and functions. Among these steroids, 17beta-estradiol (E2) has been known as the principal female" hormone. However, E2's actions are not restricted to reproduction, as it plays a myriad of important roles throughout the body including the brain. In fact, this hormone also has profound effects on the female brain throughout the life span. The brain receives this gonadal hormone from the circulation, and local formation of E2 from testosterone via aromatase has been shown. Therefore, the brain appears to be not only a target but also a producer of this steroid. The beneficial broad actions of the hormone in the brain are the end result of well-orchestrated delayed genomic and rapid non-genomic responses. A drastic and steady decline in circulating E2 in a female occurs naturally over an extended period of time starting with the perimenopausal transition, as ovarian functions are gradually declining until the complete cessation of the menstrual cycle. The waning of endogenous E2 in the blood leads to an estrogen-deficient brain. This adversely impacts neural and behavioral functions and may lead to a constellation of maladies such as vasomotor symptoms with varying severity among women and, also, over time within an individual. Vasomotor symptoms triggered apparently by estrogen deficiency are related to abnormal changes in the hypothalamus particularly involving its preoptic and anterior areas. However, conventional hormone therapies to "re-estrogenize" the brain carry risks due to multiple confounding factors including unwanted hormonal exposure of the periphery. In this review, we focus on hot flushes as the archetypic manifestation of estrogen deprivation in the brain. Beyond our current mechanistic understanding of the symptoms, we highlight the arduous process and various obstacles of developing effective and safe therapies for hot flushes using E2. We discuss our preclinical efforts to constrain E2's beneficial actions to the brain by the DHED prodrug our laboratory developed to treat maladies associated with the hypoestrogenic brain."



Prokai-Tatrai, K., & Prokai, L. (2024). The impact of 17β-estradiol on the estrogen-deficient female brain: from mechanisms to therapy with hot flushes as target symptoms. Frontiers in endocrinology, 14, 1310432.