Past research indicates that female meadow voles (Microtus pennsylvanicus) show decreased neurogenesis within the hippocampus during the breeding season relative to the non-breeding season, whereas male voles show no such seasonal changes. We expanded upon these results by quantifying a variety of endogenous cell proliferation and neurogenesis markers in wild-caught voles. Adult male and female voles were captured in the summer (breeding season) or fall (non-breeding season), and blood samples and brain tissue were collected. Four cellular markers (pHisH3, Ki67, DCX, and pyknosis) were labeled and then quantified using either fluorescent or light microscopy. The volume of the cell layers within the dentate gyrus (hilus and granule cell layer) was significantly larger in males than in females. In both sexes, all the cellular markers decreased significantly in the dentate gyrus during the breeding season relative to the non-breeding season, indicating decreased cell proliferation, neurogenesis, and pyknosis. Only the pHisH3 marker showed a sex difference, with females having a greater density of this cell proliferation marker than males. During the breeding season relative to the non-breeding season, males and females showed the predicted significant increases in testosterone and estradiol, respectively. Overall, these results suggest higher levels of neuronal turn-over during the non-breeding season relative to the breeding season, possibly due to seasonal changes in sex steroids.
Keywords: adult neurogenesis; cell proliferation; dentate gyrus; estradiol; meadow vole; testosterone.
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