Gagnidze K, Weil ZM, Faustino LC, Schaafsma SM, Pfaff DW
Expression of the primary female sex behaviour, lordosis, in laboratory animals depends on oestrogen-induced expression of progesterone receptor (PgR) within a defined cell group in the ventrolateral portion of the ventromedial nucleus of the hypothalamus (VMH). The minimal latency from oestradiol administration to lordosis is 18 h. During that time, ligand-bound oestrogen receptors (ER), members of a nuclear receptor superfamily, recruit transcriptional coregulators, which induce covalent modifications of histone proteins, thus leading to transcriptional activation or repression of target genes. The present study aimed to investigate the early molecular epigenetic events underlying oestrogen-regulated transcriptional activation of the Pgr gene in the VMH of female mice. Oestradiol (E2 ) administration induced rapid and transient global histone modifications in the VMH of ovariectomised female mice. Histone H3 N-terminus phosphorylation (H3S10phK14Ac), acetylation (H3Ac) and methylation (H3K4me3) exhibited distinct temporal patterns facilitative to the induction of transcription. A transcriptional repressive (H3K9me3) modification showed a different temporal pattern. Collectively, this should create a permissive environment for the transcriptional activity necessary for lordosis, within 3-6 h after E2 treatment. In the VMH, changes in the H3Ac and H3K4me3 levels of histone H3 were also detected at the promoter region of the Pgr gene within the same time window, although they were delayed in the preoptic area. Moreover, examination of histone modifications associated with the promoter of another ER-target gene, oxytocin receptor (Oxtr), revealed gene- and brain-region specific effects of E2 treatment. In the VMH of female mice, E2 treatment resulted in the recruitment of ERα to the oestrogen-response-elements-containing putative enhancer site of Pgr gene, approximately 200 kb upstream of the transcription start site, although it failed to increase ERα association with the more proximal promoter region. Finally, E2 administration led to significant changes in the mRNA expression of several ER coregulators in a brain-region dependent manner. Taken together, these data indicate that, in the hypothalamus and preoptic area of female mice, early responses to E2 treatment involve highly specific changes in chromatin structure, dependent on cell group, gene, histone modification studied, promoter/enhancer site and time following E2 .