Estrogen-dependent modifications to hippocampal plasticity in paternal California mice (Peromyscus californicus)

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In many biparental species, mothers and fathers experience similar modifications to circulating hormones. With these modifications come alterations in neural structure and function suggesting that neuroendocrine mechanisms may underlie postpartum plasticity in both males and females. In the biparental California mouse (Peromyscus californicus), adult neurogenesis is maintained and anxiety-like behavior is attenuated in fathers during the mid-postpartum period. Given a causal relationship between estrogen and regulation of both adult neurogenesis and anxiety, we aimed to elucidate the role of estrogen-dependent mechanisms in paternal experience-related modifications to hippocampal neuroplasticity in California mice. In Experiment 1, hippocampal estrogen receptor beta (ERβ) mRNA expression, along with circulating estradiol concentrations, were determined throughout the postpartum period. An upregulation in ERβ expression was observed in postnatal day 16 males compared to virgins. Additionally, a rise in circulating estradiol concentrations was detected on postnatal day 2 compared to virgins; levels began to decline toward virgin levels on postnatal day 16 and postnatal day 30. In Experiment 2, we determined the role of estrogen-dependent mechanisms in adult neurogenesis and anxiety-like behavior by treating virgin and paternal males with saline or the selective estrogen receptor modulator, tamoxifen (TMX), during the time of axon extension (i.e., one week after bromodeoxyuridine injection). While TMX failed to alter elevated plus maze performance, TMX treatment inhibited survival of adult born neurons but only in paternal mice. These findings highlight the potential for estrogen-dependent pathways to mediate hippocampal adult neurogenesis in paternal mice.

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