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Pubertal hormones modulate the addition of new cells to sexually dimorphic brain regions


New cells, including neurons, arise in several brain regions during puberty in rats. Sex differences in pubertal addition of cells coincide with adult sexual dimorphisms: for each region, the sex that gains more cells during puberty has a larger volume in adulthood. Removing gonadal hormones before puberty eliminates these sex differences, indicating that gonadal steroids direct the addition of new cells during puberty to maintain and accentuate sexual dimorphisms in the adult brain.

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Figure 1: New cells are added during puberty to the AVPV, SDN and medial amygdala in male and female rats.
Figure 2: Many BrdU-labeled cells in the AVPV are mature neurons, not astrocytes; many BrdU-labeled cells in medial amygdala are astrocytes but some are neurons.
Figure 3: The effect of prepubertal gonadectomy on the number of BrdU-labeled cells depends on sex and brain region.


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The technical support of J. Venier and L. Rogers is gratefully acknowledged. We thank M. Holmes for her technical and intellectual insight during protocol development. This work was supported by US National Institutes of Health (NIH) R01 MH-068764 (C.L.S.), F32 MH-068975 (J.L.Z.) and F31 MH-070125 (K.M.S.), the Michigan State University Foundation (C.L.S., E.I.A.), NIH R01 MH-062588 (L.L.DC.) and the Schmitt Foundation (B.H.L.).

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E.I.A., K.M.S. and C.L.S. designed the experiments. E.I.A., K.M.S. and J.L.Z. carried out the experiments, including BrdU injections, surgeries and single label immunocytochemistry for BrdU. E.I.A. and J.L.Z. conducted the triple-label immunocytochemistry and corresponding confocal microscopic analyses. B.H.L. and L.L.DC. performed the double-label immunocytochemistry and corresponding confocal microscopic analyses. E.I.A. wrote the initial draft of the manuscript, and C.L.S. and L.L.DC. wrote the final Brief Communication. E.I.A., K.M.S., J.L.Z. and B.H.L. prepared figures and edited each manuscript draft.

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Correspondence to Cheryl L Sisk.

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Ahmed, E., Zehr, J., Schulz, K. et al. Pubertal hormones modulate the addition of new cells to sexually dimorphic brain regions. Nat Neurosci 11, 995–997 (2008).

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