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Differential vulnerability to adverse nutritional conditions in male and female rats: modulatory role of estradiol during development.


Many studies have shown the importance of an adequate nutritional environment during development to optimally establish the neurohormonal circuits that regulate feeding behaviour. Under- or over-nutrition during early stages of life can lead to alterations in the physiology and brain networks that control food intake, resulting in a greater vulnerability to suffer maladjustments in energy metabolism in adulthood. These alterations produced by under- or over-nourishment during development differ between males and females, as does the modulatory action that estradiol exerts on the alterations produced by malnutrition. Estradiol regulates metabolism and brain metabolic circuits through the same transcription factor pathway, STAT3, that leptin and ghrelin use to program feeding circuits. Although more research is needed to disentangle the actual role of estradiol during development on the programming of feeding circuits, a synergistic role together with leptin and/or ghrelin might be hypothesized.