Structural plasticity of the hippocampus in response to estrogens in female rodents

Mol Brain. 2019 Mar 18;12(1):22. doi: 10.1186/s13041-019-0442-7.


It is well established that estrogens affect neuroplasticity in a number of brain regions. In particular, estrogens modulate and mediate spine and synapse formation as well as neurogenesis in the hippocampal formation. In this review, we discuss current research exploring the effects of estrogens on dendritic spine plasticity and neurogenesis with a focus on the modulating factors of sex, age, and pregnancy. Hormone levels, including those of estrogens, fluctuate widely across the lifespan from early life to puberty, through adulthood and into old age, as well as with pregnancy and parturition. Dendritic spine formation and modulation are altered both by rapid (likely non-genomic) and classical (genomic) actions of estrogens and have been suggested to play a role in the effects of estrogens on learning and memory. Neurogenesis in the hippocampus is influenced by age, the estrous cycle, pregnancy, and parity in female rodents. Furthermore, sex differences exist in hippocampal cellular and molecular responses to estrogens and are briefly discussed throughout. Understanding how structural plasticity in the hippocampus is affected by estrogens and how these effects can influence function and be influenced by other factors, such as experience and sex, is critical and can inform future treatments in conditions involving the hippocampus.

Keywords: Neurogenesis; aging; dendritic spines; depression; memory; parity; pregnancy; sex differences; stress.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Dendritic Spines / drug effects
  • Dendritic Spines / metabolism
  • Estrogens / pharmacology*
  • Female
  • Hippocampus / drug effects
  • Hippocampus / physiology*
  • Neurogenesis / drug effects
  • Neuronal Plasticity / drug effects*
  • Rodentia


  • Estrogens

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