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J Neurosci. 1994 Dec;14(12):7680-7.

Estradiol regulates hippocampal dendritic spine density via an N-methyl-D-aspartate receptor-dependent mechanism.

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  • 1Laboratory of Neuroendocrinology, Rockefeller University, New York, New York 10021.


In the adult female rat, the densities of dendritic spines and synapses on hippocampal CA1 pyramidal cells are dependent upon the ovarian steroid estradiol; moreover, spine and synapse density fluctuate naturally as ovarian steroid levels vary across the estrous cycle. To determine whether the effects of estradiol on dendritic spine density require activation of specific neurotransmitter systems, we have treated animals concurrently with estradiol and one of four selective neurotransmitter receptor antagonists: MK 801, a noncompetitive NMDA receptor antagonist; CGP 43487, a competitive NMDA receptor antagonist; NBQX, an AMPA receptor antagonist; or scopolamine, a muscarinic receptor antagonist. Our results indicate that the effects of estradiol can be blocked by treatment with either of the NMDA receptor antagonists, but treatment with an AMPA or muscarinic receptor antagonist has no effect on spine density. Thus, we have concluded that estradiol exerts its effect on hippocampal dendritic spine density via a mechanism requiring activation specifically of NMDA receptors.

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