Viral-mediated Zif268 expression in the prefrontal cortex protects against gonadectomy-induced working memory, long-term memory, and social interaction deficits in male rats

Neuroscience. 2017 Jan 6:340:243-257. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroscience.2016.10.062. Epub 2016 Nov 2.


In humans, some males experience reductions in testosterone levels, as a natural consequence of aging or in the clinical condition termed hypogonadism, which are associated with impaired cognitive performance and mood disorder(s). Some of these behavioral deficits can be reversed by testosterone treatment. Our previous work in rats reported that sex differences in the expression of the transcription factor Zif268, a downstream target of testosterone, within the medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC) mediates sex differences in social interaction. In the present study, we aimed to examine the effects of gonadectomy (GNX) in male rats on mPFC Zif268 expression, mood and cognitive behaviors. We also examined whether reinstitution of Zif268 in GNX rats will correct some of the behavioral deficits observed following GNX. Our results show that GNX induced a downregulation of Zif268 protein in the mPFC, which was concomitant with impaired memory in the y-maze and spontaneous object recognition test, reduced social interaction time, and depression-like behaviors in the forced swim test. Reinstitution of mPFC Zif268, using a novel adeno-associated-viral (AAV) construct, abrogated GNX-induced working memory and long-term memory impairments, and reductions in social interaction time, but not GNX-induced depression-like behaviors. These findings suggest that mPFC Zif268 exerts beneficial effects on memory and social interaction, and could be a potential target for novel treatments for behavioral impairments observed in hypogonadal and aged men with declining levels of gonadal hormones.

Keywords: Zif268; depression; gonadectomy; medial prefrontal cortex; memory; social interaction.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Line
  • Dependovirus / genetics
  • Depressive Disorder / metabolism
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Early Growth Response Protein 1 / deficiency
  • Early Growth Response Protein 1 / genetics
  • Early Growth Response Protein 1 / metabolism*
  • Genetic Vectors
  • Male
  • Maze Learning / physiology
  • Memory Disorders / metabolism*
  • Memory, Long-Term / physiology
  • Memory, Short-Term / physiology
  • Mice
  • Orchiectomy
  • Prefrontal Cortex / metabolism*
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Recognition, Psychology / physiology
  • Social Behavior
  • Testosterone / deficiency*


  • Early Growth Response Protein 1
  • Egr1 protein, rat
  • Testosterone