Estradiol alters Fos-immunoreactivity in the hippocampus and dorsal striatum during place and response learning in middle-aged but not young adult female rats
Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-fos
Evidence from lesion and inactivation studies suggests that the hippocampus (HPC) and dorsal striatum compete for control over navigation behavior, and there is some evidence in males that the structure with greater relative activation controls behavior. Estradiol has been shown to enhance HPC-dependent place learning and impair dorsal striatum-dependent response learning in female rats, possibly by increasing hippocampal activation and/or decreasing striatal activation. We used Fos-immunoreactivity (Fos-IR) to examine the activation of several subregions of the HPC and striatum in ovariectomized female rats with or without estradiol replacement 30 min after place or response learning. In 4-month-old rats, neither task nor estradiol increased Fos-IR above explore control levels in any subregion analyzed, even though estradiol impaired response learning. In 12-month-old rats, estradiol increased Fos-IR in the dentate gyrus, dorsal medial striatum, and dorsal lateral striatum in place task learners, while the absence of estradiol increased Fos-IR in these regions in response task learners. However, learning rate was not affected by estradiol in either task. We also included a group of long-term ovariectomized 12-month-old rats that displayed impaired place learning and altered Fos-IR in CA1 of the HPC. These results suggest that task-specific effects of estradiol on hippocampal and striatal activation emerge across age but that relative hippocampal and striatal activation are not related to learning rate during spatial navigation learning.