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PLoS One. 2013 Apr 8;8(4):e60863. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0060863. Print 2013.

Stimulation of the sigma-1 receptor by DHEA enhances synaptic efficacy and neurogenesis in the hippocampal dentate gyrus of olfactory bulbectomized mice.

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Department of Pharmacology, Graduate School of Pharmaceutical Sciences, Tohoku University, Sendai, Japan.

Erratum in

  • PLoS One. 2014;9(1). doi:10.1371/annotation/9fdc3705-7112-4382-a3a2-dcde33229272.


Dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) is the most abundant neurosteroid synthesized de novo in the central nervous system. We previously reported that stimulation of the sigma-1 receptor by DHEA improves cognitive function by activating calcium/calmodulin-dependent protein kinase II (CaMKII), protein kinase C and extracellular signal-regulated kinase in the hippocampus in olfactory bulbectomized (OBX) mice. Here, we asked whether DHEA enhances neurogenesis in the subgranular zone of the hippocampal dentate gyrus (DG) and improves depressive-like behaviors observed in OBX mice. Chronic treatment with DHEA at 30 or 60 mg/kg p.o. for 14 days significantly improved hippocampal LTP impaired in OBX mice concomitant with increased CaMKII autophosphorylation and GluR1 (Ser-831) phosphorylation in the DG. Chronic DHEA treatment also ameliorated depressive-like behaviors in OBX mice, as assessed by tail suspension and forced swim tests, while a single DHEA treatment had no affect. DHEA treatment also significantly increased the number of BrdU-positive neurons in the subgranular zone of the DG of OBX mice, an increase inhibited by treatment with NE-100, a sigma-1 receptor antagonist. DHEA treatment also significantly increased phosphorylation of Akt (Ser-473), Akt (Ser-308) and ERK in the DG. Furthermore, GSK-3β (Ser-9) phosphorylation increased in the DG of OBX mice possibly accounting for increased neurogenesis through Akt activation. Finally, we confirmed that DHEA treatment of OBX mice increases the number of BrdU-positive neurons co-expressing β-catenin, a downstream GSK-3βtarget. Overall, we conclude that sigma-1 receptor stimulation by DHEA ameliorates OBX-induced depressive-like behaviors by increasing neurogenesis in the DG through activation of the Akt/GSK-3β/β-catenin pathway.

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