Gel-filtration (Sephadex G-75) analysis of hepatic cytosol reveals both qualitative and quantitative sex differences in oestrogen-binding proteins. The elution profile of [3H]oestradiol-labelled cytosol shows four species of oestrogen-binding proteins (peaks I, II, IV and V) common to both sexes. The amount of [3H]oestradiol binding in peak I is equivalent in both males and females and corresponds quantitatively to the specific oestrogen receptor. The amount of binding in the remaining three peaks is greater in males than females. In addition, an oestrogen-binding protein (peak III) is present that is unique to male cytosol. Proteinase-inhibition studies demonstrate that the observed multiplicity of oestrogen-binding proteins is not an artefact of proteolytic breakdown. Sex differences in oestrogen-binding proteins are absent in immature male and female animals; the oestrogen-binding protein profile in immature rats resembles that of an adult female. Gonadectomy of adult animals does not affect the oestrogen-binding-protein profile. In contrast, neonatal (day 1) castration results in partial feminization of the characteristic oestrogen-binding protein profile seen in the adult male; the appearance of Peak III is suppressed and marked decreases in the amount of oestradiol binding occurs in the remaining peaks. Hypophysectomy of adult animals results in near abolishment of the observed sex differences; the male oestrogen-binding protein profile is partially feminized and the female profile is partially masculinized, as characterized by the appearance of [3H]oestradiol binding in the region of peak III and increased amounts of binding in peaks IV and V. The present studies demonstrate a multiplicity of oestrogen-binding proteins in liver cytosol and raise the possibility that the presence of some of these proteins may be imprinted at birth through the hypothalamic–pituitary axis, by a mechanism requiring neonatal androgen exposure.

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