Testosterone administration increases synaptic density in the gyrus dentatus of old mice independently of physical exercise

Patrizia Fattoretti, Manuela Malatesta, Raffaella Mariotti, Carlo Zancanaro

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Testosterone and physical exercise administration have been shown to affect hippocampal morphology in adult rodents. In aged animals, similar data are only available after physical exercise. In this work we used ultrastructural quantitative morphometry to investigate the effect of testosterone administration on the hippocampal synapses of old mice, either alone or in combination with aerobic physical exercise. The inner molecular layer of the hippocampal dentate gyrus (IMLDG) and the molecular stratum of Ammon's horn 1 neurons (SMCA1) were investigated in 27-month-old male Balb/c mice randomly allocated to one of four experimental conditions (five mice each): sedentary control (C), testosterone administration (10 mg/kg once a week, TA), treadmill training (30 min a day, five days a week for 4 weeks at belt speed 8 m/min, 0% incline, TT) and testosterone administration plus treadmill training (TTTA). At the end of a four-week period, hippocampi were excised, fixed, and processed by ethanol phosphotungstic acid procedure to contrast synapses. The following variables were measured in electron micrographs: number of synapses/μm3 of tissue (Nv), total area of contact zones/μm3 of tissue (Sv), average area of the synaptic contact zone (S), and percentage of perforated synapses (%PS). ANOVA showed a statistically significant main effect of experimental condition for Nv and Sv in IMLDG, and for Sv in SMCA1 (p ≤ 0.003). The S and %PS were similar within group in ANOVA. Post-hoc analysis revealed a significant (p < 0.05) increase of Sv vs. C in SMCA1 and IMLDG after TT and TA, respectively. In IMLDG, Nv was significantly increased vs. C and TT after both TA and TTTA. Overall, results showed that testosterone increases synaptic density in IMLDG of old mice independently of physical exercise or changes in synaptic size. Instead, synaptic density in SMCA1 was only sensitive to physical exercise. These findings show that exogenous testosterone administration exerts a positive effect of on synapses in selected areas of the old mouse hippocampus.

Original languageEnglish
Article number110664
JournalExperimental Gerontology
Publication statusPublished - Oct 1 2019


  • Aging
  • Brain
  • Morphometry
  • Ultrastructure

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Ageing
  • Molecular Biology
  • Genetics
  • Endocrinology
  • Cell Biology

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