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Ann N Y Acad Sci. 1996 Apr 30;784:370-80.

In vitro models for the effects of sex hormones on neurons.

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  • 1Department of Pediatrics, University of Tennessee-Memphis 38103, USA.


The results of these two in vitro models share some striking similarities. In both, estrogen was able to induce or promote the formation of either dendrites themselves in hippocampal neurons or dendritic specializations in PC12 neurites, and these specializations were then able to induce interneural interactions. In both models, androgen was able to promote the development of axons that branched frequently, while not directly fostering interneuronal contact. These findings recapitulate in part some of the effects of estrogen and androgen on neurons in vivo and suggest the inherent ability of cells of neural crest origin to respond to these hormones with specific neural morphogenetic programs designed to alter interneuronal communication. In these ways, it seems likely that both sex hormones are acting as neural growth factors in cells that express the appropriate receptor, leading to stereotyped changes in neural growth and pattern formation. Through the examination of such subcellular mechanisms, we hope to further understand the effects of sex hormones on brain development and the ontogeny of behavioral, cognitive, and reproductive differences between the sexes.

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