Author(s): Buchanan DL, Kurita T, Taylor JA, Lubahn DB, Cunha GR,
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Abstract Estradiol 17-beta (E2) induces epithelial proliferation, stratification, and cornification in vaginal epithelium. Our aim was to determine the respective roles of epithelial and stromal estrogen receptor-alpha (ER alpha) in these E2-induced events. Vaginal epithelium (E) and stroma (S) from adult ER alpha knockout (ko) and wild-type (wt) neonatal Balb/c mice were enzymatically separated and used to produce four types of tissue recombinants in which epithelium, stroma, or both lack functional ER alpha. Tissue recombinants were grafted into female nude mice, which were subsequently ovariectomized and treated with oil or E2. In response to E2 treatment, grafts prepared with wt-S (wt-S + wt-E and wt-S + ko-E) showed similar large increases in epithelial labeling index, indicating that E2 stimulated epithelial proliferation despite a lack of epithelial ER alpha in wt-S + ko-E tissue recombinants. Conversely, in tissue recombinants prepared with ko-S (ko-S + wt-E and ko-S + ko-E), epithelial labeling index remained at baseline levels after E2 or oil treatment, even though epithelial ER alpha were detected in ko-S + wt-E grafts. Epithelial cornification was present in wt-S + wt-E grafts from E2-treated hosts, whereas epithelium in all other tissue recombinants failed to cornify. Grafts composed of wt-S + wt-E from E2-treated hosts had highly stratified epithelium, whereas epithelial thickness was reduced almost 60\% in wt-S + ko-E tissue recombinants grown in E2-treated hosts and was atrophic in all other tissue recombinants. In addition, cytokeratin 10, a marker of epithelial differentiation, was strongly expressed in wt-S + wt-E tissue recombinants grown in E2-treated hosts but was markedly reduced or absent in all other tissue recombinants. These results indicate that E2-induced vaginal epithelial proliferation is mediated indirectly through stromal ER alpha, consistent with our recent findings in uterus. Conversely, both epithelial and stromal ER alpha are required for E2-induced cornification and normal epithelial stratification. These are the first known functions attributed to epithelial ER alpha in vivo and the first time any epithelial response to E2 has been shown to involve both stromal and epithelial ER alpha.
This article was published in Endocrinology
and referenced in Journal of Molecular and Genetic Medicine