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J Neurosci. 2003 Mar 1;23(5):1588-92.

Gonadal hormones affect spine synaptic density in the CA1 hippocampal subfield of male rats.

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Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, Connecticut 06520-8063, USA.


The effects of androgen on the density of spine synapses on pyramidal neurons in the CA1 area of the hippocampus were studied in male rats. Gonadectomy (GDNX) had no significant effect on the number of CA1 pyramidal cells but reduced CA1 spine synapse density by almost 50% (to 0.468 +/- 0.018 spine synapses/microm(3)) compared with sham-operated controls (0.917 +/- 0.06 spine synapses/microm(3)). Treatment of GDNX rats with testosterone propionate (500 microg/d, s.c., 2 d) increased spine synapse density to levels (1.01 +/- 0.026 spine synapses/microm(3)) comparable with intact males. A similar increase in synapse density (1.013 +/- 0.05 spine synapses/microm(3)) was observed in GDNX animals after treatment with dihydrotestosterone (DHT) (500 microg/d, s.c., 2 d) but not after estradiol (10 microg/d, s.c., 2 d; 0.455 +/- 0.02 spine synapse/microm(3)). These data indicate that testosterone is important for maintenance of normal spine synapse density in the CA1 region of the male rat hippocampus. The comparable responses to testosterone and the non-aromatizable androgen DHT, coupled with the lack of response to estradiol, suggest that testosterone acts directly on hippocampal androgen receptors rather than indirectly via local estrogen biosynthesis.

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