Androgen decreases dopamine neurone survival in rat midbrain.
Clinical studies show that men are more likely to develop disorders affecting midbrain dopaminergic pathways, such as drug addiction and Parkinson's disease (PD). Although a great deal of focus has been given to the role of oestrogen in the maintenance of midbrain dopaminergic pathways, little is known about how testosterone influences these pathways. In the present study, we used stereological analysis of tyrosine hydroxylase-immunoreactive (TH-IR) cell bodies to determine how testosterone influences the dopaminergic cell bodies of the substantia nigra pars compacta (SNpc) and ventral tegmental area (VTA). Rats and mice were castrated at postnatal day (PN) 60, and these midbrain cell populations were counted on PN 90. One month after castration, TH-IR cell number had increased in the SNpc and VTA of rats and mice. Replacement with testosterone or the non-aromatisable analogue dihydrotestosterone (DHT) in castrated animals reduced TH-IR cell number in the SNpc and VTA in rats. In mice, the decrease of TH-IR cell number with testosterone or DHT replacement was observed only in the SNpc. The apparent increase in TH-IR neurone number after castration is not explained by an increase in TH expression because the number of nondopaminergic cells (TH-immunonegative, TH-IN) did not decrease proportionally after castration. TH-IN cell number did not change after castration or hormone replacement in rat or mouse SNpc or VTA. These findings suggest that testosterone may play a suppressive role in midbrain dopaminergic pathways.
Johnson, ML; Day, AE; Ho, CC; Walker, QD; Francis, R; Kuhn, CM
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