Objective: Gender differences in the neurodevelopmental disorder, schizophrenia, have been described for nearly all features of the illness. Reduced hippocampal expression of the GABAergic interneuron marker, parvalbumin (PV), and GABA synthesizing enzyme, GAD67, are consistently reported in schizophrenia. However, little is known of the expression patterns of hippocampal PV and GAD67 during adolescence and their interaction with sex steroid hormones during adolescent development. This study examined the effects of altered sex steroid hormone levels during adolescence on protein levels of PV, GAD67 and estrogen receptors (ERα/β) in the hippocampus of mice.
Methods: Protein expression of PV and GAD67 was measured in the dorsal (DHP) and ventral (VHP) hippocampus of female and male C57Bl/6 mice by Western blot in a week by week analysis from pre-pubescence to adulthood (week 3-12). Fluorescent immunohistochemistry (IHC) was used to investigate the relationship between ERs and PV(+) cells in the hippocampus of female mice at young adulthood (week 10-11). To further examine the role of sex steroid hormones on PV and GAD67 expression, gonadectomy and hormone replacement was done at 5 weeks of age.
Results: Female mice showed a significant gradual increase in PV expression from 3 to 12 weeks of age in the DHP and VHP which correlated with serum 17β-estradiol levels. Fluorescent IHC showed approximately 30-50% co-localization of ER-α in PV(+) cells in the female DHP and VHP (dentate gryus/hilus and CA1-CA3). Adolescent ovariectomy significantly reduced PV expression in the DHP but not VHP of female mice, while 17β-estradiol replacement prevented this deficit in DHP PV levels. ER-α expression, but not ER-β, was also reduced in the DHP following ovariectomy with no significant effect of 17β-estradiol replacement. In contrast to female mice, male mice did not show any significant changes in hippocampal PV/GAD67 expression throughout adolescent development. Furthermore, adolescent castration and treatment with testosterone or dihydrotestosterone produced no changes in PV/GAD67 expression.
Conclusions: Our data suggest a differential developmental trajectory of PV expression between the sexes and manipulating circulating levels of sex steroid hormones by ovariectomy alters this trajectory in a region-dependent manner. This may be mediated via ER-α signaling as this receptor was found to be co-localized with PV(+) cells in the female mouse hippocampus. Alternative mechanisms of 17β-estradiol-induced regulation of PV expression are also discussed herein. Together, results from the present study may offer more insight into neurodevelopmental disorders, including schizophrenia, where sex steroid hormones and GABAergic markers are implicated in the pathophysiology of the illness.
Keywords: Dorsal hippocampus; Estrogen receptor-α; Parvalbumin; Schizophrenia; Sex differences.
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