Neuroprotective actions of ovarian hormones without insult in the raphe region of rhesus macaques

Y. Tokuyama, A. P. Reddy, C. L. Bethea

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Scopus citations


Using a nonhuman primate model of surgical menopause, our laboratory has shown that ovarian hormone treatment (HT) improves 5-HT neural function in the dorsal raphe nucleus (DRN). We further hypothesize that HT may increase 5-HT neuronal resilience. Recent data from microarray analysis indicated that HT regulates gene expression in pathways that lead to apoptosis. In this study, we questioned whether HT alters protein expression in caspase-dependent and independent pathways. Ovariectomized monkeys received Silastic implants containing placebo (empty), estrogen (E) or E+ progesterone (P). A small block of the midbrain containing the DRN was dissected and subjected to subcellular fractionation, yielding cytosolic, nuclear and mitochondrial fractions (n=4/group). The pro-apoptotic protein, c-jun n-terminal kinase (JNK1) and its phosphorylation were decreased by E+P treatment in the cytosolic fraction. Downstream of JNK are proteins in the caspase-dependent and -independent pathways. First, in the caspase-dependent pathway, cytoplasmic and mitochondrial fractions were immunoblotted for Bcl-2 family members, cytochrome c, Apaf1 and XIAP. However, the expression of these proteins did not differ among treatments. Pro-caspase 3 was decreased by E+P, but there was no evidence of active caspase in any group. Then, we examined the involvement of a protein in the caspase-independent pathway, called apoptosis-inducing factor (AIF). AIF mRNA (n=3/group) and AIF mitochondrial protein tended to decrease with hormone treatment. However, AIF protein in the nuclear fraction in E+P treated monkeys was significantly reduced. This indicates that HT is reducing the translocation of AIF from mitochondria to nucleus, thus inhibiting AIF-mediated apoptosis. AIF was immunocytochemically localized to large 5-HT-like neurons of the dorsal raphe. These data suggest that in the absence of global trauma or ischemia, HT may act through the caspase-independent pathway to promote neuroprotection in the 5-HT system.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)720-731
Number of pages12
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 23 2008
Externally publishedYes


  • 5-HT
  • AIF
  • JNK
  • apoptosis
  • estrogen
  • neuroprotection

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)


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