Pretreatment with 17beta-estradiol (E2) is profoundly neuroprotective in young animals subjected to focal and global ischemia. However, whether E2 retains its neuroprotective efficacy in aging animals, especially when administered after brain insult, is largely unknown.
It was previously shown that pinealectomy causes delayed loss of pyramidal neurons in rat hippocampal layers CA1/3 and that this is reversed by melatonin supplementation. Here, we used immunohistologic detection of doublecortin, a protein expressed in newborn neurons, to determine if melatonin supplementation promotes neurogenesis after pinealectomy. It was found that melatonin supplementation significantly increased the number of doublecortin immunoreactive neurons in the dentate gyrus over the postsurgical intervals of 2, 4, 6, 8, 10 and 17 months. The increase was most evident at 6 months postsurgery and thereafter, and was apparent despite a severe decline in doublecortin-labeled cells over the 17 month postsurgical interval in all groups of rats. Doublecortin immunoreactive cells were not observed in the pyramidal layer itself. These results indicate that melatonin promotes neurogenesis in the dentate gyrus of pinealectomized rats. However, it is equivocal that these newborn neurons migrate to the pyramidal layer and account for the reappearance of neurons at this location in these rats. This study provides further evidence for a role of melatonin in promoting neurogenesis, adding another role to its already remarkably pleiotropic profile. The scope and significance of this newly discovered role remains to be determined.
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