Together but not for better? Conjugated equine estrogens, estradiol, androstenedione, and their interactions on spatial memory in C-57 mice
Menopause is associated with a wide array of negative symptoms. As average lifespan increases due to advances in healthcare and technology, more women are spending a larger portion of their lives in a menopausal state low in estrogen and progesterone. Hormone therapies such as Conjugated Equine Estrogens (CEE) and the bioidentical estrogen, 17-estradiol (E2), are commonly prescribed to treat the negative symptoms of menopause. Our laboratory has previously shown that CEE has differential effects on cognitive ability depending on whether menopause is transitional (VCD) or surgical (ovariectomy, OVX). Further, the negative impact of CEE on cognitive function in a transitional ovary-intact model of menopause was associated with high levels of serum androstenedione; the primary hormone circulating in a follicle-deplete menopausal state. Here, we investigate the cognitive effects of these two common hormone therapies separately, and in conjunction with the hormone androstenedione, in a "blank-slate" OVX mouse model. We assessed cognitive ability using two behavioral tasks such at the Water Radial Arm Maze (WRAM, measuring spatial working and reference memory) and the Morris water maze (MM, measuring spatial reference memory). In the WRAM, every treatment group saw impaired performance compared to Vehicle but the combination group of E2 plus Androstenedione. In the MM, the combination group of E2 plus Androstenedione actually enhanced performance in the maze compared to every other comparable group. Translationally, these results suggest that CEE given in the presence of an androstenedione-dominant hormone milieu is impairing to cognition, E2 in this same manner is not. These results yield valuable insight into optimal hormone therapies for menopausal women.