Estrogens and thyroid hormones are regulators of important diverse physiological processes such as reproduction, thermogenesis, neural development, neural differentiation and cardiovascular functions. Both are ligands for receptors in the nuclear receptor superfamily, which act as ligand-dependent transcription factors, regulating transcription. However, estrogens and thyroid hormones also rapidly (within minutes or seconds) activate kinase cascades and calcium increases, presumably initiated at the cell membrane. We discuss the relevance of both modes of hormone action, including the membrane estrogen receptor, to physiology, with particular reference to lordosis behavior. We first showed that estrogen restricted to the membrane can, in fact, lead to subsequent increases in transcription from a consensus estrogen response element-based reporter in the neuroblastoma cell line, SK-N-BE(2)C. Using a novel hormonal paradigm, we also showed that the activation of protein kinase A, protein kinase C, mitogen activated protein kinase and increases in calcium were important in the ability of the membrane-limited estrogen to potentiate transcription. We discuss the source of calcium important in transcriptional potentiation. Since estrogens and thyroid hormones have common effects on neuroprotection, cognition and mood, we also hypothesized that crosstalk could occur between the rapid actions of thyroid hormones and the genomic actions of estrogens. In neural cells, we showed that triiodothyronine acting rapidly via MAPK can increase transcription by the nuclear estrogen receptor ERα from a consensus estrogen response element, possibly by the phosphorylation of the ERα. Novel mechanisms that link signals initiated by hormones from the membrane to the nucleus are physiologically relevant and can achieve neuroendocrine integration.
Keywords: Hormones, thyroid hormone receptor, crosstalk, non-genomic, transcription, neuroendocrine, phosphorylation, estrogen receptor