Prolactin, estradiol and testosterone differentially impact human hippocampal neurogenesis in an in vitro model

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Previous studies have indicated that sex hormones such as prolactin, estradiol and testosterone may play a role in the modulation of adult hippocampal neurogenesis in rodents and non-human primates, but so far there has been no investigation of their impact on human hippocampal neurogenesis. Here, we quantify the expression levels of the relevant receptors in human post-mortem hippocampal tissue and a human hippocampal progenitor cell (HPC) line. Secondly, we investigate how these hormones modulate hippocampal neurogenesis using a human in vitro cellular model. Human female HPCs were cultured with biologically relevant concentrations of either prolactin, estradiol or testosterone. Bromodeoxyuridine incorporation, immunocytochemistry and high-throughput analyses were used to quantify markers determining cell fate after HPCs were either maintained in a proliferative state or allowed to differentiate in the presence of these hormones. In proliferating cells, estrogen and testosterone increased cell density but had no clear effect on markers of proliferation or cell death to account for this. In differentiating cells, a 3-day treatment of prolactin elicited a transient effect, whereby it increased the proportion of Microtubule-associated protein 2 (MAP2)-positive and Doublecortin (DCX)-positive cells, but this effect was not apparent after 7-days. At this timepoint we instead observe a decrease in proliferation. Overall, our study demonstrates relatively minor, and possibly short-term effects of sex hormones on hippocampal neurogenesis in human cells. Further work will be needed to understand if our results differ to previous animal research due to species-specific differences, or whether it relates to limitations of our in vitro model.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 12 Dec 2019


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