Neurosci Lett. 2023 Dec 2:137578. doi: 10.1016/j.neulet.2023.137578. Online ahead of print.
Persistent post-ischemic alterations to the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis occur following global cerebral ischemia (GCI) in rodents. However, similar effects on hypothalamic-pituitary-gonadal (HPG) axis activation remain to be determined. Therefore, this study evaluated the effects of GCI in adult female rats (via four-vessel occlusion) on the regularity of the estrous cycle for 24-days post ischemia. A second objective aimed to assess persistent alterations of HPG axis activation through determination of the expression of estrogen receptor alpha (ERα), kisspeptin (Kiss1), and gonadotropin-inhibitory hormone (GnIH/RFamide-related peptide; RFRP3) in the medial preoptic area (POA), arcuate nucleus (ARC), dorsomedial nucleus (DMH) of the hypothalamus, and CA1 of the hippocampus 25 days post ischemia. Expression of glucocorticoid receptors (GR) in the paraventricular nucleus of the hypothalamus (PVN) and CA1 served as a proxy of altered HPA axis activation. Our findings demonstrated interruption of the estrous cycle in 87.5% of ischemic rats, marked by persistent diestrus, lasting on average 11.86 days. Moreover, compared to sham-operated controls, ischemic female rats showed reduced Kiss1 expression in the hypothalamic ARC and POA, concomitant with elevated ERα in the ARC and increased GnIH in the DMH and CA1. Reduced GR expression in the CA1 was associated with increased GR-immunoreactivity in the PVN, indicative of lasting dysregulation of HPA axis activation. Together, these findings demonstrate GCI disruption of female rats’ estrous cycle over multiple days, with a lasting impact on HPG axis regulators within the reproductive axis.