Cholesterol and perhaps estradiol protect against corticosterone-induced hippocampal CA3 dendritic retraction in gonadectomized female and male rats

J. B. Ortiz, K. J. McLaughlin, G. F. Hamilton, S. E. Baran, A. N. Campbell, Cheryl Conrad

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


Chronic stress or glucocorticoid exposure simplifies hippocampal Cornu Ammonis region 3 (CA3) apical dendritic arbors in male rats. In contrast to males, chronic stress either reduces CA3 basal branching or exerts no observable morphological effects in gonadally intact female rats. Under conditions that females display stress-induced CA3 dendritic retraction, such as that following ovariectomy, chronic exposure to 17β-estradiol or cholesterol can negate these changes. Whether glucocorticoids produce CA3 dendritic retraction in ovariectomized females and whether neuroprotection from 17β-estradiol or cholesterol is sex-specific remains unknown. The current study examined the effects of chronic glucocorticoid exposure, in conjunction with 17β-estradiol or cholesterol administration, on hippocampal CA3 dendritic complexity. Adult male and female Sprague-Dawley rats were gonadectomized and implanted with 25% 17β-estradiol in cholesterol, 100% cholesterol, or blank Silastic capsules. Rats were then assigned to either a 21-day corticosterone (CORT) drink (400. μg/ml CORT, 2.4% ethanol in tap water) or tap water (Tap, 2.4% ethanol in tap water) treatment. Brains were processed for Golgi staining, and hippocampal CA3 dendritic architecture was quantified. Results showed 21-day CORT administration reduced hippocampal CA3 apical dendritic branch points, CA3 apical dendritic length, body weight gain, and adrenal weights compared to male and female control counterparts. Furthermore, male and female rats implanted with Silastic capsules containing cholesterol or 25% 17β-estradiol in cholesterol were protected from CORT-induced CA3 apical dendritic branch reduction. No effects were observed in the CA3 basal dendritic arbors. The present results demonstrate that CORT produces hippocampal CA3 dendritic retraction in gonadectomized male and female rats and that cholesterol and 25% 17β-estradiol in cholesterol prevent this dendritic simplification.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)409-421
Number of pages13
StatePublished - Aug 29 2013


  • Glucocorticoids
  • Golgi
  • Morphology
  • Neuroprotection
  • Sex differences
  • Stress

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Neuroscience


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