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J Comp Neurol. 1991 Nov 15;313(3):486-93.

Adrenal steroids regulate postnatal development of the rat dentate gyrus: II. Effects of glucocorticoids and mineralocorticoids on cell birth.

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Laboratory of Neuroendocrinology, Rockefeller University, New York, New York 10021.


Unlike the majority of mammalian brain regions, the rat dentate gyrus undergoes maximal cell birth and cell death during the same developmental time period. Granule cell birth and death peak at the end of the first postnatal week. We have found that manipulations of glucocorticoid levels during the stress hyporesponsive period profoundly influence the density of pyknotic cells in the dentate gyrus while apparently not affecting the density of healthy cells. This raises the possibility that glucocorticoids are regulating processes in addition to cell death, i.e., cell birth. In order to determine whether increases in circulating glucocorticoids or mineralocorticoids affect the birth of cells in the developing dentate gyrus, 3H-thymidine autoradiography was performed on brains of rat pups treated with either corticosterone or aldosterone during the first postnatal week. Quantitative analysis of 3H-thymidine-labelled cells revealed significant decreases in the density of labelled cells in the granule cell layers with both corticosterone and aldosterone treatment. In these same brains, significant decreases in the density of pyknotic cells were also observed in the granule cell layers. However, no changes in the numbers of 3H-thymidine-labelled pyknotic cells were observed with any treatment. Increases in circulating corticosterone or aldosterone resulted in significant increases in the density of both 3H-thymidine-labelled and pyknotic cells in the hilus. These results suggest that dentate gyrus cell birth and cell death are related and that these processes are regulated by adrenal steroids.

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