Neurodegenerative Disease: Roles for Sex, Hormones, and Oxidative Stress

Nathalie Sumien, J. Thomas Cunningham, Delaney L. Davis, Rachel Engelland, Oluwadarasimi Fadeyibi, George E. Farmer, Steve Mabry, Paapa Mensah-Kane, Oanh T.P. Trinh, Philip H. Vann, E. Nicole Wilson, Rebecca L. Cunningham

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


Neurodegenerative diseases cause severe impairments in cognitive and motor function. With an increasing aging population and the onset of these diseases between 50 and 70 years, the consequences are bound to be devastating. While age and longevity are the main risk factors for neurodegenerative diseases, sex is also an important risk factor. The characteristic of sex is multifaceted, encompassing sex chromosome complement, sex hormones (estrogens and androgens), and sex hormone receptors. Sex hormone receptors can induce various signaling cascades, ranging from genomic transcription to intracellular signaling pathways that are dependent on the health of the cell. Oxidative stress, associated with aging, can impact the health of the cell. Sex hormones can be neuroprotective under low oxidative stress conditions but not in high oxidative stress conditions. An understudied sex hormone receptor that can induce activation of oxidative stress signaling is the membrane androgen receptor (mAR). mAR can mediate nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide-phosphate (NADPH) oxidase (NOX)-generated oxidative stress that is associated with several neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer disease. Further complicating this is that aging can alter sex hormone signaling. Prior to menopause, women experience more estrogens than androgens. During menopause, this sex hormone profile switches in women due to the dramatic ovarian loss of 17β-estradiol with maintained ovarian androgen (testosterone, androstenedione) production. Indeed, aging men have higher estrogens than aging women due to aromatization of androgens to estrogens. Therefore, higher activation of mAR-NOX signaling could occur in menopausal women compared with aged men, mediating the observed sex differences. Understanding of these signaling cascades could provide therapeutic targets for neurodegenerative diseases.

Original languageEnglish
Article numberbqab185
JournalEndocrinology (United States)
Issue number11
StatePublished - 1 Nov 2021


  • AR45
  • angiotensin
  • estrogen
  • membrane androgen receptor
  • oxidative stress
  • testosterone


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