Gonadal hormone modulation of neurogenesis in the dentate gyrus of adult male and female rodents

Brain Res Rev. 2008 Mar;57(2):332-41. doi: 10.1016/j.brainresrev.2007.05.008. Epub 2007 Jun 9.


Gonadal hormones modulate neurogenesis in the dentate gyrus differentially in male and female adult rodents. Neurogenesis is comprised of at least two components: cell proliferation (the production of new cells) and cell survival (the number of new neurons that survive to maturity). Previous studies have found sex differences in the level of cell proliferation in the dentate gyrus only when comparing females in a high estrogen state to males. This review focuses on the effects of acute and chronic levels of estrogens or androgens on hippocampal neurogenesis in the adult male and female rodent. Evidence is also reviewed for the co-localization of androgen receptors and estrogen receptors (ER) with markers for cell proliferation or immature new cell survival. Briefly, evidence suggests that acute estradiol initially enhances and subsequently suppresses cell proliferation in the dentate gyrus of adult female rodents but may have limited effects in male rodents. Both the two known ER subtypes, ERalpha and beta upregulate hippocampal neurogenesis via cell proliferation. Intriguingly, repeated exposure to estradiol modulates hippocampal neurogenesis and cell death in adult female, but not male, rodents. However short-term estradiol treatment (5 days) in male meadow voles enhances new cell survival in the dentate gyrus but only when administered during the 'axon extension' phase. Furthermore, evidence is also reviewed showing a difference in response to acute and chronic estradiol treatment in older female rats compared to younger female rats. Recent findings from our laboratory indicate that testosterone and dihydrotestosterone upregulate hippocampal neurogenesis (via cell survival), but not cell proliferation, in adult male rodents. Effects of endogenous fluctuations in gonadal hormones on adult neurogenesis are observed across the seasons in meadow voles and during pregnancy and lactation in the rat dam. Pregnancy and motherhood differentially regulate adult hippocampal neurogenesis in the adult female rodent, with primiparous rats displaying lower levels of hippocampal cell proliferation and survival after parturition. Few studies have compared males and females but existing research suggests a sex difference in the hormonal regulation of hippocampal neurogenesis in the adult. Clearly more work is needed to elucidate the effects of gonadal hormones on neurogenesis in the dentate gyrus of both male and female rodents across the lifespan, especially if we are to use our knowledge of how adult neurogenesis is regulated to develop strategies to repair neuron loss in neurodegenerative diseases.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Proliferation*
  • Cell Survival / physiology
  • Dentate Gyrus / cytology*
  • Dentate Gyrus / physiology
  • Female
  • Gonadal Steroid Hormones / physiology*
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Neurons / cytology*
  • Neurons / physiology
  • Pregnancy
  • Rats


  • Gonadal Steroid Hormones