Aromatase catalyzes the synthesis of estrogen from its androgen precursors. Estrogen is known to be important in regulating long bone growth and epiphyseal plate closure. To assess whether there may be growth plate-specific production of estrogen, we performed reverse transcriptase polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) to determine whether aromatase transcripts are present in the human growth plate. Immunohistochemistry was also employed to identify the specific sites of expression. Growth plates were obtained from an adolescent male and female undergoing ephysectomy to counter premature growth plate closure in the opposite leg. Aromatase transcripts were detected in RNA preparations from both growth plates. The aromatase protein was mainly expressed in the zone of maturation and the hypertrophic zone, with greatest expression in the latter. Since estrogen receptors are known to be expressed in chondrocytes, this data is consistent with a role for local estrogen production in the autocrine/paracrine control of long bone growth and growth plate maturation.
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