Author(s): Zhang JM, Konkle AT, Zup SL, McCarthy MM
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Abstract The hippocampus is a key brain region regulating complex cognitive and emotional responses, and is implicated in the etiology of depressive and anxiety disorders, many of which exhibit some degree of sex difference. The male rat hippocampus is consistently reported to be slightly but significantly larger than the female. The majority of studies on the development of volumetric sex differences have focused on the effects of estradiol (E2), with relatively few focusing on androgens. We examined the impact of both E2 and androgens on newly born cells in the developing rat hippocampus, and report that neonatal males have significantly more 5-bromo-2'-deoxyuridine-5'-monophosphate (BrdU)+ cells than females. Both testosterone (T) and dihydrotestosterone treatment of females significantly increased the number of BrdU+ cells, an effect blocked by the androgen receptor antagonist, flutamide. However, only T significantly increased the number of neuronal nuclear antigen+ neurons in the female rat hippocampus. Interestingly, E2 treatment also increased BrdU+ cells in females, but had no effect on neuron number. Instead, E2 and T significantly increased the number of newly born glial fibrillary acidic protein or glutamine synthetase+ glial cells in females, indicating that androgens and E2 may act independently to achieve distinct endpoints. Quantification of pyknotic cells at two different developmental time points indicates no sex difference in the number of cells dying, suggesting, but not proving, that gonadal steroids are promoting cell genesis.
This article was published in Eur J Neurosci
and referenced in Journal of Steroids & Hormonal Science