Androstenedione, the main circulating ovarian hormone present after menopause, has been shown to positively correlate with poor spatial memory in an ovary-intact rodent model of follicular depletion, and to impair spatial memory when administered exogenously to surgically menopausal ovariectomized rats. Androstenedione can be converted directly to estrone via the aromatase enzyme, or to testosterone. The current study investigated the hormonal mechanism underlying androstenedione-induced cognitive impairments. Young adult ovariectomized rats were given either androstenedione, androstenedione plus the aromatase inhibitor anastrozole to block conversion to estrone, androstenedione plus the androgen receptor blocker flutamide to block androgen receptor activity, or vehicle treatment, and were then administered a battery of learning and memory maze tasks. Since we have previously shown that estrone administration to ovariectomized rats impaired cognition, we hypothesized that androstenedione's conversion to estrone underlies, in part, its negative cognitive impact. Here, androstenedione administration impaired spatial reference and working memory. Further, androstenedione did not induce memory deficits when co-administered with the aromatase inhibitor, anastrozole, whereas pharmacological blockade of the androgen receptor failed to block the cognitive impairing effects of androstenedione. Anastrozole alone did not impact performance on any cognitive measure. The current data support the tenet that androstenedione impairs memory through its conversion to estrone, rather than via actions on the androgen receptor. Studying the effects of aromatase and estrogen metabolism is critical to elucidating how hormones impact women's health across the lifespan, and results hold important implications for understanding and optimizing the hormone milieu from the many endogenous and exogenous hormone exposures across the lifetime.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Molecular Biology
- Clinical Biochemistry
- Organic Chemistry