Depression often accompanies the perimenopausal transition and it often precedes overt symptomology in common neurodegenerative diseases (NDDs, such as Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, Huntington, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis). Serotonin dysfunction is frequently found in the different etiologies of depression. We have shown that ovariectomized (Ovx) monkeys treated with estradiol (E) for 28 days supplemented with placebo or progesterone (P) on days 14-28 had reduced DNA fragmentation in serotonin neurons of the dorsal raphe nucleus, and long-term Ovx monkeys had fewer serotonin neurons than intact controls. We questioned the effect of E alone or E+P (estradiol supplemented with progesterone) on gene expression related to DNA repair, protein folding (chaperones), the ubiquitin-proteosome, axon transport and NDD-specific genes in serotonin neurons. Ovx macaques were treated with placebo, E or E+P (n = 3 per group) for 1 month. Serotonin neurons were laser captured and subjected to microarray analysis and quantitative real-time PCR (qRT-PCR). Increases were confirmed with qRT-PCR in five genes that code for proteins involved in repair of strand breaks and nucleotide excision. NBN1, PCNA (proliferating nuclear antigen), GADD45A (DNA damage-inducible), RAD23A (DNA damage recognition) and GTF2H5 (gene transcription factor 2H5) significantly increased with E or E+P treatment (all analysis of variance (ANOVA), P<0.01). Chaperone genes HSP70 (heat-shock protein 70), HSP60 and HSP27 significantly increased with E or E+P treatment (all ANOVA, P<0.05). HSP90 showed a similar trend. Ubiquinase coding genes UBEA5, UBE2D3 and UBE3A (Parkin) increased with E or E+P (all ANOVA, P<0.003). Transport-related genes coding kinesin, dynein and dynactin increased with E or E+P treatment (all ANOVA, P<0.03). SCNA (α-synuclein) and ADAM10 (α-secretase) increased (both ANOVA, P<0.02) but PSEN1 (presenilin1) decreased (ANOVA, P<0.02) with treatment. APP decreased 10-fold with E or E+P administration. Newman-Keuls post hoc comparisons indicated variation in the response to E alone versus E+P across the different genes. In summary, E or E+P increased gene expression for DNA repair mechanisms in serotonin neurons, thereby rendering them less vulnerable to stress-induced DNA fragmentation. In addition, E or E+P regulated four genes encoding proteins that are often misfolded or malfunctioning in neuronal populations subserving overt NDD symptomology. The expression and regulation of these genes in serotonergic neurons invites speculation that they may mediate an underlying disease process in NDDs, which in turn may be ameliorated or delayed with timely hormone therapy in women.