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Pharmacol Biochem Behav. 1999 Jan;62(1):53-60.

Sex and estrous cycle-dependent changes in neurosteroid and benzodiazepine effects on food consumption and plus-maze learning behaviors in rats.

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  • 1Department of Pharmacology, University Institute of Pharmaceutical Sciences, Panjab University, Chandigarh, India.


Experiments were designed to investigate the influence of estrous cycle and gender of the rat on the effects of a gamma-aminobutyric acid type A (GABA(A)) receptor active neurosteroid, 3alpha-hydroxy-5alpha-pregnan-20-one (allopregnanolone), the benzodiazepine, triazolam, and a GABA(A) receptor antagonistic neurosteroid, delta5-androsten-3beta-ol-17-one sulfate (dehydroepiandrosterone sulfate), on food intake and elevated plus-maze learning behaviors. Allopregnanolone (0.25 mg/kg, s.c.) and triazolam (0.25 mg/kg, i.p.) produced a hyperphagic effect, while dehydroepiandrosterone sulfate (5 mg/kg, s.c.) elicited an anorectic effect. However, allopregnanolone was more potent in diestrous females, whereas triazolam exhibited significantly higher hyperphagic potency in estrus females. The extent of anorexia following dehydroepiandrosterone sulfate was alike in male and female rats. The triazolam- and allopregnanolone-induced hyperphagic effect was blocked by bicuculline (1 mg/kg, i.p.), a selective GABA(A) receptor antagonist. In contrast to triazolam, the hyperphagic effect of allopregnanolone was insensitive to flumazenil (5 mg/kg, i.p.), a benzodiazepine antagonist. Vehicle-treated diestrous rats displayed moderately higher latencies in the elevated plus-maze learning task than estrus or proestrus females. Although allopregnanolone and triazolam elicited equipotent learning deficits in plus-maze learning in male and female rats, the magnitude of impairment-induced by triazolam was significantly higher in diestrous females than proestrus females. Dehydroepiandrosterone sulfate enhanced memory performance only in male rats. Although the use of the elevated plus-maze as a learning paradigm with benzodiazepines and neurosteroids may be sensitive to changes in anxiety, the differential data suggest that neurosteroid-induced effects are at least partly specific to learning behavior. These results confirm the role of estrous cycle and sex of rats in modifying the potency of neurosteroids and benzodiazepines on food consumption and learning and memory processes.

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