Calcium-dependent phosphorylation processes control brain aromatase in quail

J. Balthazart, M. Baillien, T. D. Charlier, G. F. Ball

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

130 Scopus citations


Increased gene transcription activated by the binding of sex steroids to their cognate receptors is one important way in which oestrogen synthase (aromatase) activity is regulated in the brain. This control mechanism is relatively slow (hours to days) but recent data indicate that aromatase activity in quail preoptic-hypothalamic homogenates is also rapidly (within minutes) affected by exposure to conditions that enhance Ca2+-dependent protein phosphorylation. We demonstrate here that Ca2+-dependent phosphorylations controlled by the activity of multiple protein kinases including PKC, and possibly also PKA and CAMK, can rapidly down-regulate aromatase activity in brain homogenates. These phosphorylations directly affect the aromatase molecule itself. Western blotting experiments on aromatase purified by immunoprecipitation reveal the presence on the enzyme of phosphorylated serine, threonine and tyrosine residues in concentrations that are increased by phosphorylating conditions. Cloning and sequencing of the quail aromatase identified a 1541-bp open reading frame that encodes a predicted 490-amino-acid protein containing all the functional domains that have been previously described in the mammalian and avian aromatase. Fifteen predicted consensus phosphorylation sites were identified in this sequence, but only two of these (threonine 455 and 486) match the consensus sequences corresponding to the protein kinases that were shown to affect aromatase activity during the pharmacological experiments (i.e. PKC and PKA). This suggests that the phosphorylation of one or both of these residues represents the mechanism underlying, at least in part, the rapid changes in aromatase activity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1591-1606
Number of pages16
JournalEuropean Journal of Neuroscience
Issue number8
StatePublished - Apr 1 2003


  • Aromatase activity
  • Coturnix japonica
  • Fast steroid action
  • Kinases
  • Preoptic area

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)


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