Aging differentially affects male and female neural stem cell neurogenic properties
Jay Waldron1, Althea McCourty1, Laurent Lecanu1,2
1The Research Institute of the McGill University Health Centre, Montreal, Canada; 2Department of Medicine, McGill University, Montreal, Quebec, Canada
Purpose: Neural stem cell transplantation as a brain repair strategy is a very promising technology. However, despite many attempts, the clinical success remains very deceiving. Despite clear evidence that sexual dimorphism rules many aspects of human biology, the occurrence of a sex difference in neural stem cell biology is largely understudied. Herein, we propose to determine whether gender is a dimension that drives the fate of neural stem cells through aging. Should it occur, we believe that neural stem cell sexual dimorphism and its variation during aging should be taken into account to refine clinical approaches of brain repair strategies.
Methods: Neural stem cells were isolated from the subventricular zone of three- and 20-month-old male and female Long-Evans rats. Expression of the estrogen receptors, ERα and ERβ, progesterone receptor, androgen receptor, and glucocorticoid receptor was analyzed and quantified by Western blotting on undifferentiated neural stem cells. A second set of neural stem cells was treated with retinoic acid to trigger differentiation, and the expression of neuronal, astroglial, and oligodendroglial markers was determined using Western blotting.
Conclusion: We provided in vitro evidence that the fate of neural stem cells is affected by sex and aging. Indeed, young male neural stem cells mainly expressed markers of neuronal and oligodendroglial fate, whereas young female neural stem cells underwent differentiation towards an astroglial phenotype. Aging resulted in a lessened capacity to express neuron and astrocyte markers. Undifferentiated neural stem cells displayed sexual dimorphism in the expression of steroid receptors, in particular ERα and ERβ, and the expression level of several steroid receptors increased during aging. Such sexual dimorphism might explain, at least in part, the sex difference in neural fate we observed in young and old neural stem cells. These results suggest that sex and aging are two factors to be taken into consideration for future neural stem cell transplantation protocols in brain repair strategies.
Keywords: neuroregenerative medicine, brain repair strategy, gender difference, stem cell therapy, adult stem cells
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