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Cereb Cortex. 2004 May;14(5):503-10. Epub 2004 Mar 28.

Low CA1 spine synapse density is further reduced by castration in male non-human primates.

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Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, CT 06520, USA.


The hippocampus plays a major role in learning and memory and its morphology and function are readily affected by gonadal hormones in female non-human primates. We sought to determine whether the gonads also affect pyramidal cell spine synapse density in the CA1 hippocampal area of male primates. Unbiased electron microscopic stereological calculations were performed to determine the volumetric density of pyramidal cell spine synapses and semiquantitative analyses on the surface density of glial fibrillary acidic protein-containing glia processes and the diameter of pyramidal cell apical dendrites in the CA1 area of intact and orchidectomized (1 month) St Kitts vervet monkeys (Chlorocebus aethiops sabaeus). The volumetric density (number of spine synapse/ micro m(3)) of spine synapses was significantly lower (40%) in the gonadectomized animals than in control monkeys; conversely, the density of glia processes was significantly higher (15%) and the diameter of dendritic shafts located in this area was also larger (30%) in the orchidectomized animals than in the controls. Strikingly, when compared to female values, intact male primates had lower spine synapse densities than either intact or ovariectomized females. Since the primate hippocampus is very similar to that of a human's, the present observations suggest that physiological levels of circulating androgen hormones are necessary to support normal spine synapse density in the CA1 stratum radiatum of human male hippocampus.

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