Aromatase deficiency in hematopoietic cells improves glucose tolerance in male mice through skeletal muscle-specific effects

Katya B. Rubinow, Laura J. den Hartigh, Leela Goodspeed, Shari Wang, Orhan K. Oz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Estrogens are important for maintaining metabolic health in males. However, the key sources of local estrogen production for regulating energy metabolism have not been fully defined. Immune cells exhibit aromatase activity and are resident in metabolic tissues. To determine the relative contribution of immune cell-derived estrogens for metabolic health in males, C57BL6/J mice underwent bone marrow transplant with marrow from either wild-type (WT(WT)) or aromatase-deficient (WT(ArKO)) donors. Body weight, body composition, and glucose and insulin tolerance were assessed over 24 weeks with mice maintained on a regular chow diet. No differences were found in insulin sensitivity between groups, but WT (ArKO) mice were more glucose tolerant than WT(WT) mice 20 weeks after transplant, suggestive of enhanced glucose disposal (AUCglucose 6061±3349 in WT(WT) mice versus 3406 ±1367 in WT(ArKO) mice, p = 0.01). Consistent with this, skeletal muscle from WT(ArKO) mice showed higher expression of the mitochondrial genes Ppargc1a (p = 0.03) and Nrf1 (p = 0.01), as well as glucose transporter type 4 (GLUT4, Scl2a4; p = 0.02). Skeletal muscle from WT(ArKO) mice had a lower concentration of 17β-estradiol (5489±2189 pg/gm in WT (WT) mice versus 3836±2160 pg/gm in WT(ArKO) mice, p = 0.08) but higher expression of estrogen receptor-α (ERα, Esr1), raising the possibility that aromatase deficiency in immune cells led to a compensatory increase in ERα signaling. No differences between groups were found with regard to body weight, adiposity, or gene expression within adipose tissue or liver. Immune cells are a key source of local 17β-estradiol production and contribute to metabolic regulation in males, particularly within skeletal muscle. The respective intracrine and paracrine roles of immune cell-derived estrogens require further delineation, as do the pathways that regulate aromatase activity in immune cells specifically within metabolic tissues.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere0227817
JournalPloS one
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2020
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)
  • General


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