Characterizing the effects of tonic 17β-estradiol administration on spatial learning and memory in the follicle-deplete middle-aged female rat

Stephanie V. Koebele, Sarah E. Mennenga, Mallori L. Poisson, Lauren T. Hewitt, Shruti Patel, Loretta P. Mayer, Cheryl A. Dyer, Heather A. Bimonte-Nelson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


17β-estradiol (E2)-containing hormone therapy is a safe, effective way to alleviate unwanted menopause symptoms. Preclinical research has focused upon the role of E2 in learning and memory using a surgically menopausal rodent model whereby the ovaries are removed. Given that most women retain their reproductive tract and undergo a natural menopause transition, it is necessary to understand how exogenous E2 impacts a structurally intact, but follicle-deplete, system. In the current study, 8 month old female rats were administered the ovatoxin 4-vinylcyclohexene diepoxide (VCD), which accelerates ovarian follicular depletion, to model the human menopause transition. After follicular depletion, at 11 months old, rats were administered Vehicle or tonic E2 treatment for 12 days prior to behavioral evaluation on spatial working and reference memory tasks. Results demonstrated that E2 had both enhancing and impairing effects on taxed working memory depending upon the learning or retention phases of the water radial-arm maze, with no impact on reference memory. Relationships between memory scores and circulating estrogen levels were specific to follicle-depleted rats without E2 treatment. Collectively, findings demonstrate the complexity of E2 administration in a follicle-depleted background, with cognitive effects specific to working memory; furthermore, E2 administration altered circulating hormonal milieu and relationships between hormone profiles and memory. In sum, menopausal etiology impacts the parameters of E2 effects on cognition, complementing prior work with other estrogen compounds. Deciphering estrogenic actions in a system wherein the reproductive tract remains intact with follicle-depleted ovaries, thus modeling the majority or menopausal women, is critical for translational perspectives.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number104854
JournalHormones and Behavior
StatePublished - Nov 2020


  • Estrogen
  • Hormone therapy
  • Learning
  • Memory
  • Menopause
  • VCD

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Endocrinology
  • Endocrine and Autonomic Systems
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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