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Neuropharmacology. 2011 Sep;61(4):653-64. doi: 10.1016/j.neuropharm.2011.05.008. Epub 2011 May 27.

Chronic exposure to anabolic androgenic steroids alters activity and synaptic function in neuroendocrine control regions of the female mouse.

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  • 1Department of Physiology and Neurobiology, Dartmouth Medical School, Hanover, NH 03755, USA.


Disruption of reproductive function is a hallmark of abuse of anabolic androgenic steroids (AAS) in female subjects. To understand the central actions of AAS, patch clamp recordings were made in estrous, diestrous and AAS-treated mice from gonadotropin releasing hormone (GnRH) neurons, neurons in the medial preoptic area (mPOA) and neurons in the anteroventroperiventricular nucleus (AVPV); regions known to provide GABAergic and kisspeptin inputs to the GnRH cells. Action potential (AP) frequency was significantly higher in GnRH neurons of estrous mice than in AAS-treated or diestrous animals. No significant differences in AAS-treated, estrous or diestrous mice were evident in the amplitude or kinetics of spontaneous postsynaptic currents (sPSCs), miniature PSCs or tonic currents mediated by GABA(A) receptors or in GABA(A) receptor subunit expression in GnRH neurons. In contrast, the frequency of GABA(A) receptor-mediated sPSCs in GnRH neurons showed an inverse correlation with AP frequency across the three hormonal states. Surprisingly, AP activity in the medial preoptic area (mPOA), a likely source of GABAergic afferents to GnRH cells, did not vary in concert with the sPSCs in the GnRH neurons. Furthermore, pharmacological blockade of GABA(A) receptors did not alter the pattern in which there was lower AP frequency in GnRH neurons of AAS-treated and diestrous versus estrous mice. These data suggest that AAS do not impose their effects either directly on GnRH neurons or on putative GABAergic afferents in the mPOA. AP activity recorded from neurons in kisspeptin-rich regions of the AVPV and the expression of kisspeptin mRNA and peptide did vary coordinately with AP activity in GnRH neurons. Our data demonstrate that AAS treatment imposes a "diestrous-like" pattern of activity in GnRH neurons and suggest that this effect may arise from suppression of presynaptic kisspeptin-mediated excitatory drive arising from the AVPV. The actions of AAS on neuroendocrine regulatory circuits may contribute the disruption of reproductive function observed in steroid abuse.

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