|Abstract: ||The gonadal steroids, in particular estradiol, exert an important action during perinatal period in the regulation of sexual dimorphism and neuronal plasticity, and in the growth and development of nervous system. Exposure of the developing female to estrogens during perinatal period may have long-lasting effects that are now regarded as “programming” the female neuroendocrine axis to malfunction in adulthood. The purpose of this study was to describe the effect of a single administration of a low dose (10 μg) of β-estradiol 3-benzoate (EB) to female rats on the day of birth on brain and plasma concentrations of the neuroactive steroid allopregnanolone, general behaviours and behavioral sensitivity to benzodiazepines. Neonatal administration of EB induces a dramatic reduction in the cerebrocortical and plasma levels of allopregnanolone and progesterone that were apparent in both juvenile (21 days) and adult (60 days). In contrast, this treatment did not affect 17β-estradiol levels. Female rats treated with β-estradiol 3-benzoate showed a delay in vaginal opening, aciclicity characterized by prolonged estrus, and ovarian failure. Given that allopregnanolone elicits anxiolytic, antidepressive, anticonvulsant, sedative-hypnotic effects and facilitates social behaviour, we assessed whether this treatment might modify different emotional, cognitive and social behaviours. This treatment did not affect locomotor activity, anxiety- and mood-related behaviours, seizures sensitivity and spatial memory. In contrast, neonatal β-estradiol 3-benzoate-treated rats showed a dominant, but not aggressive, behaviour and an increase in body investigation, especially anogenital investigation, characteristic of male appetitive behaviour. On the contrary, neonatal administration of β-estradiol 3-benzoate to female rats increases sensitivity to the anxiolytic, sedative, and amnesic effects of diazepam in adulthood.
These results indicate that the marked and persistent reduction in the cerebrocortical and peripheral concentration of the neuroactive steroid allopregnanolone induced by neonatal treatment with β-estradiol 3-benzoate does not change baseline behaviours in adult rats. On the contrary, the low levels of allopregnanolone seems to be associated to changes in the behavioural sensitivity to the positive allosteric modulator of the GABAA receptor, diazepam. These effects of estradiol suggest that it plays a major role in pharmacological regulation both of GABAergic transmission and of the abundance of endogenous modulators of such transmission during development of the central nervous system.|