alexa Sex differences in stress responses: focus on ovarian hormones.


Journal of Depression and Anxiety

Author(s): Ter Horst GJ, Wichmann R, Gerrits M, Westenbroek C, Lin Y

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Abstract Women in the reproductive age are more vulnerable to develop affective disorders than men. This difference may attribute to anatomical differences, hormonal influences and environmental factors such as stress. However, the higher prevalence in women normalizes once menopause is established, suggesting that ovarian hormones may play an important role in the development of depression in women. Ovarian hormones such as estrogen can pass the brain-blood barrier and bind to cytoplasmatic estrogen receptor (ER)-alpha and ER-beta in different areas of the limbic system. During stress, estrogen can modulate the behavioral and neurobiological response depending on the concentrations of estrogen. In this review we present evidence for disparate effects of chronic stress on neuroplasticity and brain activity in male and female rats. Furthermore, we will demonstrate that effects of social support on coping with stress can be mimicked by social housing of rats and that this model can be used for identification of underlying neurobiological mechanisms, including behavior, phosphorylation of CREB and ERK1/2, and brain activity changes as measured with fos expression. Using cyclic administration of estrogen in ovariectomized female rats we could specifically address effects of different plasma estrogen levels and antidepressants on stress-induced neuroplasticity and activity changes. In this model we also studied effects of estrogen on recovery after chronic stress. We conclude that the female brain has a different innate strategy to handle stress than the male brain and that female animal models are necessary for studying the underlying mechanisms and options for treatment. This article was published in Physiol Behav and referenced in Journal of Depression and Anxiety

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