The study by a group of researchers, led by Baylor College of Medicine and The University of Texas Southwestern Medical School, shows that the hormone works through two populations of neurons, steroidogenic factor-1 (SF-1) neurons and the pro-opiomelanocortin (POMC) neurons, in a particular part of the brain called the hypothalamus.
The researchers found that the two kinds of neurons play different but important roles in metabolism, fat distribution and appetite control, according to the February issue of the Baylor College of Medicine news.
“Before menopause, women are protected from obesity and associated disorders by estrogen,” said Dr. Yong Xu, the first author of the study and assistant professor of the USDA Agricultural Research Service Children’s Nutrition Research Center at BCM and Texas Children’s Hospital.
Researchers studied four different kinds of mice to determine the effect of estrogen and focused their work on neurons in the hypothalamus that carry an estrogen receptor alpha. The hypothalamus links the nervous system to the endocrine system to regulate multiple physiological processes, including those controlling bodyweight.