Estrogen actions on mitochondria-Physiological and pathological implications

James W. Simpkins, Shao Hua Yang, Saumyendra N. Sarkar, Virginia Pearce

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

120 Scopus citations


Estrogens are potent neuroprotective hormones and mitochondria are the site of cellular life-death decisions. As such, it is not surprising that we and others have shown that estrogens have remarkable effects on mitochondrial function. Herein we provide evidence for a primary effect of estrogens on mitochondrial function, achieved in part by the import of estrogen receptor β (ERβ) into the mitochondria where it mediates a number of estrogen actions on this vital organelle. ERβ is imported into the mitochondria, through tethering to cytosolic chaperone protein and/or through direct interaction with mitochondrial import proteins. In the mitochondria, ERβ can affect transcription of critical mitochondrial genes through the interaction with estrogen response elements (ERE) or through protein-protein interactions with mitochondrially imported transcription factors. The potent effects of estrogens on mitochondrial function, particularly during mitochondrial stress, argues for a role of estrogens in the treatment of mitochondrial defects in chronic neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer's disease (AD) and Parkinson's disease (PD) and more acute conditions of mitochondrial compromise, like cerebral ischemia and traumatic brain injury.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)51-59
Number of pages9
JournalMolecular and Cellular Endocrinology
Issue number1-2
StatePublished - 13 Aug 2008


  • Apoptosis
  • Estradiol
  • Estrogen
  • Estrogen receptor β
  • Mitochondria
  • Neurodegeneration
  • Neuroprotection


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