Effects of estrogen and progesterone treatment on rat hippocampal NMDA receptors: Relationship to Morris water maze performance

Nahid K. El-Bakri, Atiqul Islam, Shunwei Zhu, Adlan Elhassan, Abdul Mohammed, Bengt Winblad, Abdu Adem

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

84 Citations (Scopus)


Estrogen modulates NMDA receptors function in the brain. It increases both dendritic spine density and synapse number in the hippocampus, an effect that can be blocked by NMDA antagonist. In this study, we investigated the effect of 17β-estradiol and progesterone treatment on NMDA receptors in ovariectomized rats. Two different doses were used for 10 weeks. Receptor autoradiography was done on brain sections using [3H] MK-801 as a ligand. Our results showed a significant increase in [3H] MK-801 binding in the dentate gyrus, CA3 and CA4 areas of the hippocampus of ovariectomized compared to sham operated rats. In addition, we observed similar changes in CA1. 17β-estradiol treatment in both doses reduced the binding back to the normal level while progesterone treatment did not show any effect. Spatial reference memory was tested on Morris water maze task. Ovariectomy severely impaired spatial reference memory. Estradiol but not progesterone treatment significantly improved the memory performance of the ovariectomized rats. Low dose treatment showed better learning than high dose estrogen treatment. The decrease in the antagonist sites by estradiol treatment could result in an increase in the sensitivity of the hippocampus to the excitatory stimulation by glutamate system and hence the effect of estradiol on learning and memory. The changes of NMDA receptors in the hippocampus support the concept that estrogen-enhancing effect on spatial reference memory could be through the enhancing of NMDA function.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)537-544
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Cellular and Molecular Medicine
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2004


  • Estradiol
  • MK-801
  • NMDA
  • Ovariectomy
  • Progesterone
  • Reference memory

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Medicine
  • Cell Biology


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