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Psychoneuroendocrinology. 2011 Oct;36(9):1327-41. doi: 10.1016/j.psyneuen.2011.03.004. Epub 2011 Apr 11.

Hypogonadism predisposes males to the development of behavioural and neuroplastic depressive phenotypes.

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Graduate Program in Neuroscience, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, BC, Canada.


The incidence of depression is 2-3× higher in women particularly during the reproductive years, an occurrence that has been associated with levels of sex hormones. The age-related decline of testosterone levels in men corresponds with the increased acquisition of depressive symptoms, and hormone replacement therapy can be efficacious in treating depression in hypogonadal men. Although it is not possible to model depression in rodents, it is possible to model some of the symptoms of depression including a dysregulated stress response and altered neuroplasticity. Among animal models of depression, chronic mild unpredictable stress (CMS) is a common paradigm used to induce depressive-like behaviours in rodents, disrupt the hypothalamic-pituitary adrenal axis and decrease hippocampal neuroplasticity. The purpose of this study was to assess the effect of hypogonadism, produced by gonadectomy, on the acquisition of depressive-like behaviours and changes in hippocampal neuroplasticity in adult male Sprague-Dawley rats. A 21-day unpredictable CMS protocol was used on gonadectomised (GDX) and sham-operated males which produced an attenuation of weight gain in the GDX males receiving CMS treatment (GDX-CMS). Behavioural analysis was carried out to assess anxiety- and depressive-like behaviours. The combination of GDX and CMS produced greater passive behaviours within the forced swim test than CMS exposure alone. Similarly, hippocampal cell proliferation, neurogenesis and the expression of the neuroplastic protein polysialated neural cell adhesion molecule (PSA-NCAM) were all significantly reduced in the GDX-CMS group compared to all other treatment groups. These findings indicate that testicular hormones confer resiliency to chronic stress in males therefore reducing the likelihood of developing putative physiological, behavioural or neurological depressive-like phenotypes.

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