In rat hippocampus, estrogen receptor-alpha (ER-α) can initiate non-genomic signaling mechanisms that modulate synaptic plasticity in response to either circulating or locally synthesized estradiol (E). Here we report quantitative electron microscopic data demonstrating that ER-α is present within excitatory synapses in dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (dlPFC) of young and aged ovariectomized female rhesus monkeys with and without E treatment. There were no treatment or age effects on the percentage of excitatory synapses containing ER-α, nor were there any group differences in distribution of ER-α within the synapse. However, the mean size of synapses containing ER-α was larger than unlabeled excitatory synapses. All monkeys were tested on delayed response (DR), a cognitive test of working memory that requires dlPFC. In young ovariectomized monkeys without E treatment, presynaptic ER-α correlated with DR accuracy across memory delays. In aged monkeys that received E treatment, ER-α within the postsynaptic density (30–60 nm from the synaptic membrane) positively correlated with DR performance. Thus, while the lack of group effects suggests that ER-α is primarily in synapses that are stable across age and treatment, synaptic abundance of ER-α is correlated with individual performance in two key age/treatment groups. These data have important implications for individual differences in the cognitive outcome among menopausal women and promote a focus on cortical estrogen receptors for therapeutic efficacy with respect to cognition.
estradiol; menopause; aging; cognition; dendritic spines; electron microscopy
Neurogenesis occurs continually throughout life in all mammals and the extent of neurogenesis is influenced by many factors including gonadal hormones. Most research regarding hormones and neurogenesis has been performed on non-primate species. To determine whether gonadal hormones can modulate endogenous neurogenesis in the dentate gyrus (DG) of the hippocampus in non-human primates, ovariectomized (OVX) female rhesus monkeys received continuous, unopposed β-estradiol (OVX-E-Con), cyclic unopposed β-estradiol (OVX-E-Cyc), continuous β-estradiol + cyclic progesterone (OVX-E-Con+P-Cyc), or control (OVX-Veh) treatments. At week 29, all monkeys received BrdU injections for four consecutive days, in addition to the ongoing treatment. Twenty days after the last BrdU injection, all animals were sacrificed for tissue collection. In DG of hippocampus, scattered BrdU-ir cells were observed mainly in the subgranular zone (SGZ) and in the granule cell layer and occasionally these BrdU-ir cells in the SGZ formed clusters containing between 2–5 cells. In the granule cell layer and SGZ, virtually none of the BrdU-ir cells were either Dcx, a marker of immature neurons, or GFAP positive. However, an occasional BrdU-ir cell was positive for both neuronal marker NeuN or β III-tubulin. Unbiased stereological analysis of BrdU-ir cells within the SGZ and the granule cell layer of DG revealed that among the experimental groups, there was no significant difference in number of BrdU-ir cells within the SGZ and the granule cell layer of the DG: OVX-E-Con (1801+218.7), OVX-E-Cyc (1783+415.6), OVX-E-Con+P-Cyc (1721+229.6), and OVX-Veh (1263+106.3), but a trend towards increased BrdU-ir cells was observed in all the experimental groups.
monkey; hippocampal neurogenesis; dentate gyrus; estrogen
Schizophrenic patients, long-term abusers of phencyclidine (PCP), and monkeys treated with PCP all exhibit enduring cognitive deficits. Evidence indicates that loss of prefrontal cortex spine synapses results in cognitive dysfunction, suggesting the presence of synaptic pathology in the monkey PCP model; however, there is no direct evidence of such changes. Here we use the monkey PCP model of schizophrenia to investigate at the ultrastructural level whether remodeling of dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC) asymmetric spine synapses occurs following PCP. Subchronic PCP treatment resulted in a decrease in the number of asymmetric spine synapses, which was greater in layer II/III than V of DLPFC, compared to vehicle-treated controls. This decrease may contribute to PCP-induced cognitive dysfunction in the nonhuman primate model and perhaps in schizophrenia. Thus, the synapse loss in the PCP model provides a novel target for the development of potential treatments of cognitive dysfunction in this model and in schizophrenia.
Asymmetric synapse; phencyclidine; schizophrenia; prefrontal cortex; electron microscopy
Understanding effects of estrogen on the medial prefrontal cortex (PFC) may help to elucidate the increased prevalence of depression and post-traumatic stress disorder in women of ovarian cycling age. Estrogen replacement in ovariectomized (OVX) young rats amplifies the detrimental effects of stress on working memory (a PFC-mediated task), but the mechanisms by which this occurs have yet to be identified. In male rats, stimulation of norepinephrine alpha-2 adrenoceptors protects working memory from stress-induced impairments. However, this effect has not been studied in females, and has not been examined for sensitivity to estrogen. The current study asked whether OVX females with estrogen replacement (OVX + Est) and without replacement (OVX + Veh) responded differently to stimulation of alpha-2 adrenoceptors after administration of the benzodiazepine inverse agonist FG7142, a pharmacological stressor. The alpha-2 agonist, guanfacine, protected working memory from the impairing effects of FG7142 in OVX + Veh, but not in OVX + Est rats. Western Blot analysis for alpha-2 receptors was performed on PFC tissue from each group, but no changes in expression were found, indicating that the behavioral effects observed were likely not due to changes in receptor expression. These findings point to possible mechanisms by which estrogen may enhance the stress response, and hold implications for the gender discrepancy in the prevalence of stress-related mental illness.
Acute stress; estrogen; norepinephrine; prefrontal cortex; sex differences; working memory
Sex differences have been identified in many of the behavioral and physiological effects of cannabinoids. While estrogens has been linked to some of these variations, the effects of estrogen on cannabinoid receptor binding have not been characterized within regions of the brain specifically implicated in stress responsivity and emotional behavior. To examine sex differences, and the role of estradiol, in regulation of the cannabinoid receptor, we compared the binding site density of the cannabinoid receptor within the amygdala, hippocampus and hypothalamus in males, cycling females, ovariectomized (OVX) females and estradiol-treated OVX females (OVX + E). Our data reveal that males and OVX females have higher amounts of hypothalamic and lower amounts of amygdalar cannabinoid receptor binding relative to both cycling females and OVX + E females. Within the hippocampus, ovariectomy resulted in an upregulation of cannabinoid receptor binding. These data provide a putative biochemical mechanism mediating the observed behavioral and physiological sex differences in the effects of cannabinoids, particularly with respect to stress and emotional behavior.
Prefrontal cortical (PFC) activity in the primate brain emerging from minicolumnar microcircuits plays a critical role in cognitive processes dealing with executive control of behavior. However, the specific operations of columnar laminar processing in prefrontal cortex (PFC) are not completely understood. Here we show via implementation of unique microanatomical recording and stimulating arrays, that minicolumns in PFC are involved in the executive control of behavior in rhesus macaque nonhuman primates (NHPs) performing a delayed-match-to-sample (DMS) task. PFC neurons demonstrate functional interactions between pairs of putative pyramidal cells within specified cortical layers via anatomically oriented minicolumns. Results reveal target-specific, spatially tuned firing between inter-laminar (layer 2/3 and layer 5) pairs of neurons participating in the gating of information during the decision making phase of the task with differential correlations between activity in layer 2/3 and layer 5 in the integration of spatial vs. object-specific information for correct task performance. Such inter-laminar processing was exploited by the interfacing of an online model which delivered stimulation to layer 5 locations in a pattern associated with successful performance thereby closing the columnar loop externally in a manner that mimicked normal processing in the same task. These unique technologies demonstrate that PFC neurons encode and process information via minicolumns which provides a closed loop form of “executive function,” hence disruption of such inter-laminar processing could form the bases for cognitive dysfunction in primate brain.
prefrontal cortex; inter-laminar correlated firing; nonhuman primates; columnar correlates of target selection; columnar correlates of task difficulty; spatial vs. object tuning
Royal jelly (RJ) has been used worldwide for many years as medical products, health foods and cosmetics. Since RJ contains testosterone and has steroid hormone-type activities, we hypothesized that it may have beneficial effects on osteoporosis. We used both an ovariectomized rat model and a tissue culture model. Rats were divided into eight groups as follows: sham-operated (Sham), ovariectomized (OVX), OVX given 0.5% (w/w) raw RJ, OVX given 2.0% (w/w) RJ, OVX given 0.5% (w/w) protease-treated RJ (pRJ), OVX given 2.0% (w/w) pRJ, OVX given 17β-estradiol and OVX given its vehicle, respectively. The Ovariectomy decreased tibial bone mineral density (BMD) by 24%. Administration of 17β-estradiol to OVX rats recovered the tibial BMD decrease by 100%. Administration of 2.0% (w/w) RJ and 0.5–2.0% (w/w) pRJ to OVX rats recovered it by 85% or more. These results indicate that both RJ and pRJ are almost as effective as 17β-estradiol in preventing the development of bone loss induced by ovariectomy in rats. In tissue culture models, both RJ and pRJ increased calcium contents in femoral-diaphyseal and femoral-metaphyseal tissue cultures obtained from normal male rats. However, in a mouse marrow culture model, they neither inhibited the parathyroid hormone (PTH)-induced calcium loss nor affected the formation of osteoclast-like cells induced by PTH in mouse marrow culture system. Therefore, our results suggest that both RJ and pRJ may prevent osteoporosis by enhancing intestinal calcium absorption, but not by directly antagonizing the action of PTH.
bone mineral density; bone tissue culture; ovariectomized rats; post-menopausal osteoporosis model; protease-treated RJ; royal jelly
Performance of cognitive tasks in nonhuman primates (NHPs) requires specific brain regions to make decisions under different degrees of difficulty or “cognitive load.”
Local cerebral metabolic activity ([18F]FDG PET imaging) in dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC), medial temporal lobe (MTL), and dorsal striatum (DStr) is examined in NHPs performing a delayed-match-to-sample (DMS) task with variable degrees of cognitive load.
Materials and methods
Correlations between cognitive load and degree of brain metabolic activity were obtained with respect to the influence of the ampakine CX717 (Cortex Pharmaceuticals), using brain imaging and recordings of neuronal activity in NHPs and measures of intracellular calcium release in rat hippocampal slices.
Activation of DLPFC, MTL, and DStr reflected changes in performance related to cognitive load within the DMS task and were engaged primarily on high load trials. Similar increased activation patterns and improved performance were also observed following administration of CX717. Sleep deprivation in NHPs produced impaired performance and reductions in brain activation which was reversed by CX717. One potential basis for this facilitation of cognition by CX717 was increased firing of task-specific hippocampal cells. Synaptic mechanisms affected by CX717 were examined in rat hippocampal slices which showed that N-methyl-d-aspartic acid-mediated release of intracellular calcium was reduced in slices from sleep-deprived rats and reversed by application of CX717 to the bathing medium.
The findings provide insight into how cognition is enhanced by CX717 in terms of brain, and underlying neural, processes that are activated on high vs. low cognitive load trials.
Hippocampus; Prefrontal cortex; Striatum; AMPA receptor; NMDA receptor; Macaque; Temporal lobe; PET; Behavior; Calcium imaging
Estrogens affect body fluid balance, including sodium ingestion. Recent findings of a population of neurons in the hindbrain Nucleus of the Solitary Tract (NTS) of rats that are activated during sodium need suggest a possible central substrate for this effect of estrogens. We used immunohistochemistry to label neurons in the NTS that express 11-β-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase type 2 (HSD2), an enzyme that promotes aldosterone binding, in male rats, and in ovariectomized (OVX) rats given estradiol benzoate (EB) or oil vehicle (OIL). During baseline conditions, the number of HSD2 immunoreactive neurons in the NTS immediately rostral to the area postrema was greater in EB-treated OVX rats compared to those in OIL-treated OVX and male rats. A small number of HSD2 neurons also was labeled for dopamine-β-hydroxylase (DBH), an enzyme involved in norepinephrine biosynthesis. Double-labeled neurons in the NTS were located primarily in the more lateral portion of the HSD2 population, at the level of the area postrema in all three groups, with no sex or estrogen-mediated differences in the number of double-labeled neurons. These results suggest two subpopulations of HSD2 neurons are present in the NTS. One subpopulation, which does not co-localize with DBH and is increased during conditions of elevated estradiol, may contribute to the effects of estrogens on sodium ingestion. The role of the other, smaller subpopulation, which co-localizes with DBH and is not affected by estradiol, remains to be determined, but one possibility is that these latter neurons are part of a larger network of catecholaminergic input to neuroendocrine neurons in the hypothalamus.
sex differences; ovariectomy; salt intake; dopamine-β-hydroxylase
Previous studies suggest that NO- and PGI2-independent pathways play a greater role in parasympathetic vasodilatation in the submandibular glands (SMG) of female than of male rats. Thus, the purpose of this study was to determine whether estrogen and progesterone influence the relative contributions of NO and PGI2 to parasympathetic vasodilatation in the SMG. Vascular responses to chorda-lingual nerve stimulation were examined in sham-operated (SHAM) and ovariectomized (OVX) female rats and in OVX rats treated with either 17β-estradiol alone or a combination of 17β-estradiol and progesterone. Compared with SHAM animals, increases in vascular conductance in OVX rats were reduced at 1, 2 and 5 Hz (p<0.05). Blood flow responses in OVX + 17β-estradiol and OVX + 17β-estradiol + progesterone rats were indistinguishable from those observed in SHAM animals. Indomethacin had no effect on vasodilatation in SHAM and OVX + 17β-estradiol rats, but increased vascular responses in OVX animals (p<0.02). The addition of L-NAME resulted in a significant reduction in vasodilatation at all frequencies. In OVX rats treated with both estrogen and progesterone treatment, indomethatin caused a reduction in vasodilatation and L-NAME further diminished the remaining responses. Under these conditions, vasodilatation was due largely, if not exclusively, to direct parasympathetic rather than antidromic sensory nerve activation. Finally, both neuronally-derived and endothelium-derived NO appeared to be responsible for the NO-dependent vasodilatation, but endothelium-derived NO became increasingly important as the frequency of stimulation increased. We conclude that estrogen and progesterone influence parasympathetic vasodilatation through combined effects on NO-, PGI2- and non-NO/PGI2-mediated pathways.
Endothelium; Nitric Oxide; Prostacyclin; Cyclooxygenase
Estradiol (E2) and progesterone (P) are well known regulators of progesterone receptor (PR) expression in the rat uterus. However, it is not known which receptor subtypes are involved. Little knowledge exist about possible differences in PR regulation through ERalpha or ERbeta, and whether the PR subtypes are differently regulated depending on ER type bound. Thus, in the present study PR immunostaining has been examined in uteri of ovariectomized (ovx) rats after different treatments of estrogen and P, in comparison with that in immature, cycling, and pregnant animals.
The uteri were collected from 1) ovx rats treated with E2 and/or P; 2) immature rats, intact cycling rats and animals pregnant day 8 and 18; 3) ovx rats treated with E2 or an estrogen receptor (ER)alpha agonist or an ERbeta agonist. Two antibodies were used, one detecting PRA+B and another one specific for PRB. Real-time PCR was used to determine mRNA levels for PRAB and PRB in experiment 3.
In stroma and myometrium faint staining was detected in ovx controls (OvxC), whereas E2 treatment resulted in strong staining. In contrast to this, in luminal epithelium (LE) the staining was strong in the OvxC group, whereas E2 treatment during the last 24 hrs before sacrifice caused a decrease. Similar to OvxC the LE of the immature animals was strongly stained. In the pregnant rats LE was negative, well in agreement with the results seen after E2 treatment. In the pregnant animals the stroma and decidua was strongly stained for PRAB, but only faint for PRB, indicating that PRA is the most expressed isoform in this state. The increase in stromal and myometrial immunostaining after E2 treatment was also found after treatment with the ERalpha agonist PPT. The ERbeta agonist DPN caused a decrease of the PR mRNA levels, which was also found for PRAB and PRB immunostaining in the GE.
Stromal and myometrial PRAB levels are increased via ERalpha, as shown by treatment with E2 and the ERalpha agonist PPT, while the levels in LE are decreased. The uterine stroma of pregnant rats strongly expressed PRAB, but very little PRB, which is different to E2 treated ovx animals where both PRAB and PRB are strongly expressed. The ERbeta agonist DPN decreased the mRNA levels of PRAB and PRB, as well as the PRAB protein level in GE. These results suggest that ERbeta signals mainly down-regulate PR levels in the epithelial cells. ERalpha, on the other hand, up-regulates PR levels in the stroma and myometrium while it decreased them in LE. Thus, the effects from E2 and PPT on the mRNA levels, as determined by PCR, could be annihilated since they are increased and decreased depending on cell type. The distribution and amount of PR isoforms strongly depend on the hormonal milieu and cell type within the rat uterus.
The individual roles of estradiol (E) and progesterone (P) in the control of food intake and body weight in ovariectomized (OVX) rats were investigated. Six groups of OVX Sprague-Dawley rats (n=9/group) were assigned to one of three 4-day cyclic hormone treatments: two groups were treated with E benzoate; two groups were treated with P; two groups were treated with both (EP). All rats had continuous access to chow and water throughout this 4-week study. One group of rats within each hormone treatment condition was fed chow ad libitum, and the second was subjected to a binge schedule: chow ad libitum plus 1-h access to an optional fat source on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. A seventh OVX group (n = 8) received the oil vehicle and chow. This group was included to monitor body weight and to verify hormone efficacy. The main findings were: (1) relative to rats receiving only P, E alone or EP attenuated 24-h chow intake tonically and cyclically, i.e. intake on Day 4, which models estrus, was lower in E and EP than in P, and also was lower than intake on Day 2, which models diestrus. In contrast, (2) neither E nor EP detectably affected optional fat intake during the 1-h fat access period relative to rats receiving only P when data were collapsed across the entire study. However, (3) E and EP had large effects on fat intake relative to P during the 1-h fat access period at the start of the study, but not at the end, when bingeing was fully established. (4) E and EP led to lower and apparently normal levels of body weight compared to rats receiving only the oil vehicle or only P. These results indicate that (1) administration of E alone has similar effects as co-administration of E and P on feeding and body weight in rats bingeing on fat, (2) with or without P, the inhibitory effects of E on meal size are compromised when bingeing on fat, and (3) the effects of E on binge size change dynamically as bingeing develops.
binge eating; bulimia; ovarian hormones; female; fat intake
We have recently reported in male rats that medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC) neurons that project to the basolateral nucleus of the amygdala (BLA) are resilient to stress-induced dendritic remodeling. The present study investigated whether this also occurs in female rats. This pathway was identified using the retrograde tracer Fast Blue injected into the BLA of ovariectomized female rats with estrogen replacement (OVX + E) and without (OVX + veh). Animals were exposed for 10 days either to 2-h immobilization stress or to home cage rest, after which layer III mPFC neurons that were either retrogradely labeled by Fast Blue or unlabeled were filled with Lucifer Yellow and analyzed for apical dendritic length and spine density. No dendritic remodeling occurred in unlabeled neurons from OVX + veh or OVX + E animals. In BLA-projecting neurons, however, stress had no effect on length in OVX + veh animals, but stressed OVX + E females showed greater dendritic length than controls at intermediate branches. Stress also caused an increase in spine density in all neurons in OVX + veh animals and a spine density increase in BLA-projecting neurons in OVX + E females. Estrogen also increased spine density on BLA-projecting neurons in unstressed animals. These data demonstrate both independent effects of estrogen on pyramidal cell morphology and effects that are interactive with stress, with the BLA-projecting neurons being sensitive to both kinds of effects.
connectivity; dendritic arborization; medial prefrontal cortex; neural plasticity; sex difference
Isoflurane preconditioning (IsoPC) neuroprotection in experimental stroke is male-specific. We determined whether estradiol alters ischemic outcomes in IsoPC brain and examined the role of estrogen receptors (ERs). Seven to 10 days before preconditioning, ovariectomized (OVX) mice were implanted with estradiol, vehicle, or ER subtype agonists. OVX ± estradiol, OVX ± vehicle, OVX ± ER agonists, and ER subtype wild-type (WT) and knockout (KO) mice were preconditioned for 4 h with sham anesthetic preconditioning (sham PC) or 1% IsoPC and recovered for 24 h. Mice then underwent 2 h of middle cerebral artery occlusion followed by 22 h of reperfusion. Infarct volumes were determined by 2,3,5-triphenyltetrazolium chloride staining, with comparisons between IsoPC and corresponding sham PC for each treatment group. Decreased infarct injury was seen in IsoPC OVX ± vehicle, whereas estradiol in IsoPC OVX mice enhanced ischemic damage. In ER studies, increased infarct volumes were seen in IsoPC ERWT mice regardless of ER subtype. IsoPC in ERαKO mice had no effect on infarction volume but reduced only cortical ischemic damage in ERβKO mice. In OVX + ERα agonist, IsoPC had no effect on infarction volume. In OVX + ERβ agonist, IsoPC increased cortical infarct volume. Estradiol depresses the brain’s protective response to IsoPC and may exacerbate cortical ischemic injury mainly through an ERβ-dependent mechanism.
estradiol; estrogen receptor; ischemia; neuroprotection; preconditioning
The role of ovarian hormones and nitric oxide in learning and memory has been widely investigated.
The present study was carried out to evaluate the effect of the nitric oxide synthase (NOS) inhibitor, N (G)-nitro-L-arginine methyl ester (L-NAME), on the ability of estradiol to improve learning in OVX rats using the Morris water maze.
Forty rats were divided into five groups: (1) ovariectomized (OVX), (2) ovariectomized-estradiol (OVX-Est), (3) ovariectomized-L-NAME 10 (OVX-LN 10), (4) ovariectomized-L-NAME 50 (OVX-LN 50) and (5) ovariectomized-estradiol-L-NAME 50 (OVX-Est-LN 50). The animals in the OVX-Est group were treated with a weekly injection of estradiol valerate (2 mg/kg; i.m.). The OVX-LN 10 and OVX-LN 50 groups were treated with daily injections of 10 and 50 mg/kg L-NAME (i.p.), respectively. The animals in the OVX-Est-LN 50 group received a weekly injection of estradiol valerate and a daily injection of 50 mg/kg L-NAME. After 8 weeks, all animals were tested in the Morris water maze.
The animals in the OVX-Est group had a significantly lower latency in the maze than the OVX group (p<0.001). There was no significant difference in latency between the OVX-LN 10 and OVX-LN 50 groups in comparison with the OVX group. The latency in the OVX-Est-LN 50 group was significantly higher than that in the OVX-Est group (p<0.001).
These results show that L-NAME treatment attenuated estradiol-mediated enhancement of spatial learning and memory in OVX rats, but it had no significant effect in OVX rats without estrogen, suggesting an interaction of nitric oxide and estradiol in these specific brain functions.
Estradiol; L-NAME; Morris water maze; Learning; Memory
Sex steroids have direct effects on the skeleton. Estrogen acts on the skeleton via the classical genomic estrogen receptors alpha and beta (ERα and ERβ), a membrane ER, and the non-genomic G-protein coupled estrogen receptor (GPER). GPER is distributed throughout the nervous system, but little is known about its effects on bone. In male rats, adaptation to loading is neuronally regulated, but this has not been studied in females.
We used the rat ulna end-loading model to induce an adaptive modeling response in ovariectomized (OVX) female Sprague-Dawley rats. Rats were treated with a placebo, estrogen (17β-estradiol), or G-1, a GPER-specific agonist. Fourteen days after OVX, rats underwent unilateral cyclic loading of the right ulna; half of the rats in each group had brachial plexus anesthesia (BPA) of the loaded limb before loading. Ten days after loading, serum estrogen concentrations, dorsal root ganglion (DRG) gene expression of ERα, ERβ, GPER, CGRPα, TRPV1, TRPV4 and TRPA1, and load-induced skeletal responses were quantified. We hypothesized that estrogen and G-1 treatment would influence skeletal responses to cyclic loading through a neuronal mechanism. We found that estrogen suppresses periosteal bone formation in female rats. This physiological effect is not GPER-mediated. We also found that absolute mechanosensitivity in female rats was decreased, when compared with male rats. Blocking of adaptive bone formation by BPA in Placebo OVX females was reduced.
Estrogen acts to decrease periosteal bone formation in female rats in vivo. This effect is not GPER-mediated. Gender differences in absolute bone mechanosensitivity exist in young Sprague-Dawley rats with reduced mechanosensitivity in females, although underlying bone formation rate associated with growth likely influences this observation. In contrast to female and male rats, central neuronal signals had a diminished effect on adaptive bone formation in estrogen-deficient female rats.
Premarin™ is the most commonly prescribed estrogenic component of hormone therapy, given since 1942. The current study is the first examining cognitive effects of tonic Premarin treatment in an animal model. Middle-aged ovariectomized (Ovx) rats received vehicle or one of three doses of Premarin (12, 24 or 36 μg daily). Rats were tested on a spatial working and reference memory maze battery. Both Medium- and High- dose Premarin enhanced memory retention, while Low-dose Premarin impaired learning and memory retention. Correlations with serum hormone levels showed that as the ratio of estrone:17β-estradiol increased, animals tended to show better working memory performance. Taken together with the dissociation of dose-specific estrogenic profiles, results suggest that higher levels of estrone, in the presence of 17β-estradiol concentrations higher than that of Ovx levels, may be beneficial for memory. Moreover, Premarin exerted dose and brain-region specific effects on BDNF and NGF protein levels, with most marked changes in cingulate and perirhinal cortices. Hippocampal gene expression profiling demonstrated significant Premarin-induced transcriptional changes in genes linked to plasticity and cognition. These findings indicate that Premarin can impact memory and the brain, and that dosing should be recognized as a clinically relevant factor possibly affecting the direction and efficacy of cognitive outcome.
Premarin; estrogen; hormone replacement; working memory; spatial memory; neurotrophins; gene expression
In the hippocampal formation (HF), the enkephalin opioids and estrogen are each known to modulate learning and cognitive performance relevant to drug abuse. Within the HF, leu-enkephalin (LENK) is most prominent in the mossy fiber (MF) pathway formed by the axons of dentate gyrus (DG) granule cells. To examine the influence of ovarian steroids on MF pathway LENK levels, we used quantitative light microscopic immunocytochemistry to evaluate LENK levels in normal cycling rats and in estrogen-treated ovariectomized rats. Rats in estrus had increased levels of LENK-immunoreactivity (ir) in the DG hilus compared to rats in diestrus or proestrus. Rats in estrus and proestrus had higher levels of LENK-ir in CA3a-c compared to rats in diestrus. Ovariectomized (OVX) rats 24 hrs (but not 6 or 72 hrs) after estradiol benzoate (EB; 10 µg) administration had increased LENK-ir in the DG hilus and CA3c. Electron microscopy showed a larger proportion of LENK-labeled small terminals and axons in the DGthe DG hilus compared to CA3 which may have contributed to region-specific changes in LENK-ir densities. Next we evaluated the subcellular relationships of estrogen receptor (ER) α, ERβ and progestin receptor (PR) with LENK-labeled MF pathway profiles using dual-labeling electron microscopy. ERβ-ir colocalized in some LENK-labeled MF terminals and smaller terminals while PR-ir was mostly in CA3 axons, some of which also showed colocalization with LENK. ERα-ir was in dendritic spines, but no colocalization with LENK-labeled profiles was observed. The present studies indicate that estrogen can modulate LENK in subregions of the MF pathway in a dose- and time- dependent manner. These effects might be triggered by direct activation of ERβ or PR in LENK-containing terminals.
dentate gyrus; CA3; estrogen; progestin; estrous cycle; opioid; immunoreactivity; rat
Conjugated equine estrogen (CEE) is the most commonly prescribed estrogen therapy, and is the estrogen used in the Women's Health Initiative study. While in-vitro studies suggest that CEE is neuroprotective, no study has evaluated CEE's effects on a cognitive battery and brain immunohistochemistry in an animal model. The current experiment tested whether CEE impacted: I) spatial learning, reference memory, working memory and long-term retention, as well as ability to handle mnemonic delay and interference challenges; and, II) the cholinergic system, via pharmacological challenge during memory testing and ChAT-immunoreactive cell counts in the basal forebrain. Middle-aged ovariectomized (Ovx) rats received chronic cyclic injections of either Oil (vehicle), CEE-Low (10 μg), CEE-Medium (20 μg) or CEE-High (30 μg) treatment. Relative to the Oil group, all three CEE groups showed less overnight forgetting on the spatial reference memory task, and the CEE-High group had enhanced platform localization during the probe trial. All CEE groups exhibited enhanced learning on the spatial working memory task, and CEE dose-dependently protected against scopolamine-induced amnesia with every rat receiving the highest CEE dose maintaining zero errors after scopolamine challenge. CEE also increased number of ChAT-immunoreactive neurons in the vertical diagonal band of the basal forebrain. Neither the ability to remember after a delay nor interference, nor long-term retention, was influenced by the CEE regimen used in this study. These findings are similar to those reported previously for 17 ß-estradiol, and suggest that CEE can provide cognitive benefits on spatial learning, reference and working memory, possibly through cholinergic mechanisms.
estrogen; hormone replacement; learning; working memory; spatial memory; reference memory
Bone loss with aging and menopause may be linked to vascular endothelial dysfunction. The purpose of the study was to determine whether putative modifications in endothelium-dependent vasodilation of the principal nutrient artery (PNA) of the femur are associated with changes in trabecular bone volume (BV/TV) with altered estrogen status in young (6 mon) and old (24 mon) female Fischer-344 rats. Animals were divided into 6 groups: 1) young intact, 2) old intact, 3) young ovariectomized (OVX), 4) old OVX, 5) young OVX plus estrogen replacement (OVX+E2), and 6) old OVX+E2. PNA endothelium-dependent vasodilation was assessed in vitro using acetylcholine. Trabecular bone volume of the distal femoral metaphysis was determined by microCT. In young rats, vasodilation was diminished by OVX and restored with estrogen replacement (intact, 82±7; OVX, 61±9; OVX+E2, 90±4%), which corresponded with similar modifications in BV/TV (intact, 28.7±1.6; OVX, 16.3±0.9; OVX+E2, 25.7±1.4%). In old animals, vasodilation was unaffected by OVX but enhanced with estrogen replacement (intact, 55±8; OVX, 59±7; OVX+E2, 92±4%). Likewise, modifications in BV/TV followed the same pattern (intact, 33.1±1.6; OVX, 34.4±3.7; OVX+E2, 42.4±2.1%). Furthermore, in old animals with low endogenous estrogen (i.e., intact and old OVX), vasodilation was correlated with BV/TV (R2 = 0.630; P<0.001). These data demonstrate parallel effects of estrogen on vascular endothelial function and BV/TV, and provide for a possible coupling mechanism linking endothelium-dependent vasodilation to bone remodeling.
Cognitive processes mediated by the hippocampus and cortex are influenced by estradiol (E2); however, the mechanisms by which E2 has these effects are not entirely clear. As such, studies were conducted to begin to address the role of actions at the β form of the intracellular estrogen receptor (ERβ) for E2’s cognitive effects in adult female mice. We investigated whether E2 improved performance of wildtype (WT) and ERβ knockout (βERKO) mice in tasks considered to be mediated by the cortex and hippocampus, the object recognition and object placement tasks. WT and βERKO mice were ovariectomized (ovx) and E2 (0.1 mg/kg), an ERβ selective ER modulator (SERM), diarylpropionitrile (DPN; 0.1 mg/kg), or oil vehicle was administered to mice following training in these tasks. We hypothesized that if E2 has mnemonic effects, in part, due to its actions at ERβ, then WT mice administered E2 or DPN would have improved performance compared to vehicle WT controls, which would not be different from βERKO mice administered vehicle, E2 or DPN. Alternatively, activation of ERα (with E2, which is a ligand for both ERα and ERβ) may produce opposing effects on cognition and/or the activation of ERα and ERβ vs. either receptor isoform alone may produce a different pattern of effects. Results obtained supported the hypothesis that ERβ activation is important for mnemonic effects. Ovx WT, but not βERKO, mice administered E2 or DPN had a greater percentage of time exploring a novel object in the object recognition task and a displaced object in the object placement task. Thus, actions at ERβ may be important for E2 or SERMs to enhance cognitive performance of female mice in the object recognition and placement tasks.
estrogen; SERMs; allopregnanolone; hippocampus; cortex; learning; memory
Spatiotemporal and recognition memory are affected by aging in humans and macaque monkeys. To investigate whether these deficits are coupled with atrophy of memory-related brain regions, T1-weighted magnetic resonance images were acquired and volumes of the cerebrum, ventricles, prefrontal cortex (PFC), calcarine cortex, hippocampus, and striatum were quantified in young and aged rhesus monkeys. Subjects were tested on a spatiotemporal memory procedure (delayed response [DR]) that requires the integrity of the PFC and a medial temporal lobe-dependent recognition memory task (delayed nonmatching to sample [DNMS]). Region of interest analyses revealed that age inversely correlated with striatal, dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (dlPFC), and anterior cingulate cortex volumes. Hippocampal volume predicted acquisition of the DR task. Striatal volume correlated with DNMS acquisition, whereas total prefrontal gray matter, prefrontal white matter, and dlPFC volumes each predicted DNMS accuracy. A regional covariance analysis revealed that age-related volumetric changes could be captured in a distributed network that was coupled with declining performance across delays on the DNMS task. This volumetric analysis adds to growing evidence that cognitive aging in primates arises from region-specific morphometric alterations distributed across multiple memory-related brain systems, including subdivisions of the PFC.
age-related memory impairment; medial temporal lobe; MRI; prefrontal cortex; rhesus monkey
Oestrogen modulates cognitive function and affective behaviours subserved by the prefrontal cortex (PFC). Identifying and localising oestrogen receptor (ER)α, in human PFC will contribute to our understanding of the molecular mechanism of oestrogen action in this region. Inferences about the site of action of oestrogen in human brain are derived largely from studies performed in nonhuman mammalian species; however, the congruence of findings across species has not been demonstrated. Furthermore, the laminar, cellular, and subcellular localisation of ERα in the cortex is debated. Therefore, we compared the distribution of ERα in human dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC) with that of monkey DLPFC and rat medial PFC. Immunohistochemistry performed on frontal cortex from the three species demonstrated ERα positive cells throughout all layers of the PFC, in pyramidal and nonpyramidal neurones, with both nuclear and cytoplasmic immunoreactivity. Western blot analyses and preabsorption studies confirmed that the antibody used recognised ERα and not ERβ. A strong ERα immunoreactive band corresponding to the full-length ERα protein (65–67 kDa) in the frontal cortex of all three species matched the size of the predominant immunoreactive band detected in breast cancer cell lines known to express ERα. Additionally, other ERα immunoreactive proteins of varying molecular weight in breast cancer cells, rat ovary and mammalian brain were detected, suggesting that ERα may exist in more than one form in the mammalian frontal cortex. The present study provides evidence that ERα protein exists in neurones in mammalian PFC and that ERα is anatomically well-positioned to directly mediate oestrogen action in these neurones.
oestrogen receptor; brain; human post-mortem; monkey; rat
Selective estrogen receptor modulators (SERMs) have been developed in order to create means to control estrogenic effects on different tissues. A major drawback in treatment of estrogen receptor (ER) positive breast cancer with the antagonist tamoxifen (TAM) is its agonistic effect in the endometrium. Raloxifene (RAL) is the next generation of SERMs where the agonistic effect on the endometrium has been reduced.
The aim of the present study was to determine the effect of SERM treatment on the uterus, as assessed by proliferation markers and several factors involved in uterine growth. Ovariectomized (ovx) rats were treated with estradiol (E2), tamoxifen (TAM), RAL, ICI182780 (ICI) or vehicle (OVX-controls). We studied the effects on mRNA levels of the growth hormone (GH) receptor, insulin-like growth factor-I (IGF-I), ERα and ERβ. In addition, by immunohistochemistry the proliferation markers PCNA and Ki-67, as well as ERα and ERβ, were detected.
The uterine weight of the rats treated with E2 or TAM was increased as compared to OVX-controls. The uterine GH-receptor mRNA level was highest in the E2 treated animals. In ICI treated rats no GH-receptor mRNA could be detected. The IGF-I mRNA level increased 16-fold in uteri of the TAM treated group and 9-fold in the E2 treated rats as compared to OVX-controls. The ERα mRNA level was increased in the E2 treated rats, while the ERβ mRNA level was increased after TAM treatment. The proliferation, as assessed by PCNA, was lowest in ICI treated animals.
The uterine wet weight, the LE height and the GH-receptor mRNA levels showed similar patterns, indicating that GH is involved in the regulation of uterine weight. Tamoxifen, which has been related to increased incidence of endometrial carcinoma in women, dramatically increased IGF-I mRNA levels in rat uterus. Since proliferation was not higher in TAM and E2 treated rats than in OVX controls, this assay of simple, early proliferation does not give the full explanation of why TAM should enhance the risk of developing endometrial cancer.
This study investigates the proliferative and osteogenic role of marrow stromal/osteoprogenitor cells in the development of the cortical bone deficit in ovariectomized (OVX) female rats. In vitro, clonal growth of marrow stromal cells from OVX rats was significantly impaired (vs. sham-operated controls). Yet in vivo, cells from sham-operated and OVX rats had equal osteogenic potential in several in vivo experimental situations, such as in intraperitoneally implanted millipore diffusion chambers and in intramuscular implants of marrow plus osteoinductive bone matrix (composite grafts). Long-term (6 mo) dihydrotachysterol (DHT) treatment of OVX rats enhanced their in vitro proliferative potential and clonal growth, as well as their osteogenic expression in composite grafts. The observation that the in vivo osteogenic performance of OVX rat marrow stromal cells was normal at extraosseous sites suggests that the mechanisms leading to osteopenia may involve an abnormality in cell-matrix interactions.