Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Why the sex gap in affective disorders?

Here is an abstract from Hu et al., which I pass on to you even though it is rather technical, that shows that an increase in negative affective behavior in stressed female versus male mice that correlates with a decrease (vs increase in males) in their hippocampal NO (nitric oxide) levels. If the hippocampal NO levels are equalized in male and females, their affective behaviors become similar.
Mechanisms underlying the female preponderance in affective disorders are poorly understood. Here we show that hippocampal nitric oxide (NO) plays a role in the sex difference of depression-like behaviors in rodents. Female mice had substantially lower NO production in the hippocampus and were significantly more likely to display negative affective behaviors than their male littermates. Eliminating the difference in the basal hippocampal NO level between male and female mice mended the sex gap of affective behaviors. Estradiol exerted a positive control on hippocampal NO production via estrogen receptor-β–mediated neuronal NO synthase expression. Thus, low estrogen in the female hippocampus accounts for lower local NO than in the male hippocampus. Although estrogen has important significance in modulating affective behaviors, it is not estrogen but NO in the hippocampus that mediates the sex difference of affective behaviors directly, because hippocampal NO was necessary for the behavioral effects of estradiol, and NO was an independent factor in modulating behaviors. Stress promoted hippocampal NO production in males because of glucocorticoid release, thus leading to local NO excess. In contrast, stress suppressed NO production in females because of decreased estrogen, thereby resulting in hippocampal NO shortage. Whereas activating cAMP response element binding protein (CREB) rescued the depression-like effects of the intrahippocampal NO donor diethylenetriamine/nitric oxide adduct (DETA/NONOate), inactivating CREB abolished the antidepressant-like effects of the intrahippocampal NO donor DETA/NONOate. Our findings suggest a molecular mechanism underlying the sex difference of affective behaviors.

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