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Neuroscience. 2004;129(1):243-54.

Estradiol increases delayed, N-methyl-D-aspartate receptor-mediated excitation in the hippocampal CA1 region.

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  • 1Department of Neurological Surgery, University of Virginia Health System, Charlottesville, VA 22908, USA.


Hippocampal functions, e.g. synaptic plasticity and hippocampal-dependent behavior, are influenced by the circulating levels of ovarian steroids in adult, female rats. The mechanisms underlying this estradiol-dependent modulation, however, are poorly understood. One possibility is that estradiol alters N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA)-receptor functioning in the hippocampus. Here, using the in vitro hippocampal slice preparation, we evaluate estradiol-dependent changes in the NMDA receptor- and the alpha-amino-3-hydroxy-5-methyl-4-isoxazolepropionic acid receptor-mediated components of excitatory postsynaptic potentials (EPSPs) evoked in CA1 by Schaffer collateral test stimulation. Using established experimental conditions [J Neurosci 17 (1997) 1848], we replicate the observation that estradiol pretreatment of ovariectomized rats increases a pharmacologically isolated NMDA receptor-mediated EPSP evoked by Schaffer collateral stimulation. However, using different conditions that optimize study of this evoked response, the estradiol-dependent increase in the monosynaptic NMDA receptor-mediated EPSP is eliminated. Low-intensity test stimulation of the Schaffer collaterals in this optimized medium reveals a novel, late NMDA receptor-mediated EPSP in CA1 from estradiol-pretreated rats. The mechanism(s) underlying this estradiol-dependent increase in a late, NMDA receptor-mediated EPSP is not known, but enhanced CA1-CA1 excitatory circuitry and glutamate spillover could contribute to this response. We conclude that estradiol pretreatment enhances NMDA receptor function in the female hippocampus by increasing not the monosynaptic, but rather a late NMDA receptor-mediated response. Variations in the magnitude of this late response may well contribute to ovarian steroid-dependent modulation of hippocampal synaptic plasticity.

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