Regulation of both the outgrowth and the survival of neurons involved in cognitive function can have a significant impact on the function of neural networks involved in memory and other cognitive processes. Results of this investigation demonstrated that 17β-estradiol and the estrogenic steroids estrone, estriol, mestranol, and equilin induced significant increases in cortical nerve cell growth. Of the neurotrophic estrogenic steroids, equilin was most efficacious. We therefore conducted an extensive analysis of equilin-induced neurotrophism. Equilin induced highly significant increases in the growth of both the macro and micro features of cortical nerve cell morphology. The growth-promoting effects of equilin were present in both serum-containing and serum-free media, indicating that the growth-promoting effect of equilin is direct and not dependent upon factors present in serum. Analysis of the regional selectivity of equilin-induced neurotrophism in the cerebral cortex demonstrated that equilin significantly increased the growth of neurons from the frontal, temporal, and occipital regions, with neurons from the parietal region also influenced, though more modestly. We pursued the mechanism of equilin-induced neurotrophism and found that the growth- promoting effects of equilin were completely abolished in the presence of the glutamatergic NMDA receptor antagonist AP5. Equilin is a major component of Premarin, the leading prescribed pharmaceutical for estrogen replacement therapy for postmenopausal women in the United States. Results of this investigation have the potential of influencing the application and design of therapeutic agents for the prevention of cognitive decline in estrogen deficient women and for the prevention of Alzheimer's disease in postmenopausal women, a group that comprises a large sector of the population, the size of which will continue to grow in the coming decades.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Developmental Neuroscience