Sex steroid hormones and neurotrophic factors are involved in pruning and shaping the adolescent brain and have been implicated in the pathogenesis of neurodevelopmental disorders, including mental illness. We aimed to determine the association between altered levels of sex steroid hormones during adolescent development and neurotrophic signalling in the C57Bl/6 mouse. We first performed a week by week analysis from pre‐pubescence to adulthood in male and female C57Bl/6 mice, measuring serum levels of testosterone and oestradiol in conjunction with western blot analysis of neurotrophin expression in the forebrain and hippocampal regions. Second, we manipulated adolescent sex steroid hormone levels by gonadectomy and hormone replacement at the pre‐pubescent age of 5 weeks. Young‐adult forebrain and hippocampal neurotrophin expression was then determined. Male mice showed significant changes in brain‐derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) expression in the forebrain regions during weeks 7–10, which corresponded significantly with a surge in serum testosterone. Castration and testosterone or di‐hydrotestosterone replacement experiments revealed an androgen receptor‐dependent effect on BDNF‐tyrosine kinase (Trk) B signalling in the forebrain and hippocampal regions during adolescence. Female mice showed changes in BDNF‐TrkB signalling at a much earlier time point (weeks 4–8) in the forebrain and hippocampal regions and these did not correspond with changes in serum oestradiol. Ovariectomy actually increased BDNF expression but decreased TrkB phosphorylation in the forebrain regions. 17β‐Oestradiol replacement had no effect, suggesting a role for other ovarian hormones in regulating BDNF‐TrkB signalling in the adolescent female mouse brain. These results suggest the differential actions of sex steroid hormones in modulating BDNF‐TrkB signalling during adolescence. These data provide insight into how the male and female brain changes in response to altered levels of circulating sex steroid hormones and could help to explain some of the developmental sex differences in the pathogenesis of neurodevelopmental disorders, including mental illness.
Hill, R. A.; Wu, Y. W. C.; Kwek, P.; Buuse, M. van den
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