Gonadal steroid hormones play an important role in the proliferation, survival, and activation of neurons. The present study was performed to examine the effects of testosterone and its metabolites on newly proliferated cells in the amygdala of adult male meadow voles (Microtus pennsylvanicus). Treatment with testosterone propionate (TP) in castrated males resulted in plasma testosterone levels similar to males following mating. TP-treated males displayed a significant increase in the density of cells labeled with a cell proliferation marker (BrdU) in the amygdala. Treatment with estradiol benzoate (EB) exerted a similar effect as TP on the density of BrdU-labeled cells, whereas 5alpha-dihydrotestosterone (DHT) was ineffective. A larger proportion (approximately 44%) of the BrdU-labeled cells in the amygdala displayed a neuronal phenotype, and a lesser percentage (approximately 35%) displayed a glial progenitor phenotype; however, treatment effects were not found in either population of cells. Hormonal effects appeared to be site-specific as no group differences were found in the dentate gyrus of the hippocampus or ventromedial hypothalamus. Finally, a time course study indicated that BrdU-labeled cells in the amygdala are present as early as 30 min following an acute injection of BrdU. Together, these data suggest that gonadal steroid hormones influence the number of newly proliferated cells in the amygdala, most likely by acting through an estrogenic mechanism, and these effects may be exerted on locally proliferating progenitors within the amygdala.
Copyright 2003 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. J Neurobiol 57: 257-269, 2003