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17ß-Estradiol (E2) is a potent neuromodulator capable of producing changes in inhibitory synaptic transmission by either changing pre-synaptic GABA release or post-synaptic GABA receptor function. Physiologically, E2 is important for energy homeostasis, influencing food consumption, body weight, adipose tissue metabolism and energy expenditure. E2 may influence energy homeostasis through estrogen receptor-rich regions such as the oval bed nucleus of the stria-terminalis (ovBNST). However, the neurophysiological effects of estradiol within the ovBNST remain largely unknown. Understanding how E2 affects inhibitory transmission may elucidate the ovBNST's contribution to energy homeostasis. Here, using brain slice electrophysiology, we saw that E2 produced a long-term potentiation (LTP) of GABA synaptic transmission (LTP) in the ovBNST in male rats. E2 acted on estrogen receptors α and G-protein coupled estrogen receptors (GPER), involved protein kinase activation and required an intact endocannabinoid system. The effects of E2 in males were sensitive to 24 h of food deprivation. In females, E2 was 100-fold more potent at producing LTP ovBNST compared to male rats and involved all three known subtypes of estrogen receptors (ERα, ERß, and GPER). These results demonstrate that E2 is a potent neuromodulator of inhibitory synaptic transmission within the ovBNST of both sexes to potentially regulate energy homeostasis.
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