In the mammalian forebrain, most neurons originate from proliferating cells in the ventricular zone lining the lateral ventricles, including a discrete area of the subventricular zone in which neurogenesis continues into adulthood. The majority of the cells generated in the anterior portion of the subventricular zone (SVZa) are neuronal precursors with progeny that migrate to the olfactory bulb (OB) along a pathway known as the rostral migratory stream (RMS). The list of factors that influence the proliferation and survival of neurons in the adult brain remains incomplete, but previous studies have implicated neurotrophins in mammals and estrogen in birds. This study examined the effect of estrus induction on the proliferation of SVZa neurons in female prairie voles. Prairie voles, unlike many other rodents, are induced into estrus by chemosensory cues from a male. This olfactory-mediated process results in an increase in serum estrogen levels and the consequent induction of behavioral estrus (sexual receptivity). Female prairie voles induced into estrus by male exposure had a 92% increase in BrdU-labeled cells in the SVZa compared to females exposed to a female. Double-label immunocytochemical studies demonstrated that 80% of the BrdU-labeled cells in the RMS displayed a neuronal phenotype. Ovariectomized females exposed to a male did not show an increase in serum estrogen or BrdU labeling in the RMS. Conversely, ovariectomized females injected with estrogen were sexually receptive and had more BrdU-labeled cells in the RMS than oil-injected females. These data suggest that, in female prairie voles, estrus induction is associated with increased numbers of dividing cells in the RMS, possibly via an estrogen-mediated process.
Copyright 2001 Academic Press.