Aging Is Associated With Lower Neuroactive Steroids and Worsened Outcomes Following Cerebral Ischemia in Male Mice
Ischemic stroke is a leading cause of disability and death, and aging is the main nonmodifiable risk factor. Following ischemia, neuroactive steroids have been shown to play a key role in cerebroprotection. Thus, brain steroid concentrations at the time of injury as well as their regulation after stroke are key factors to consider.
Here, we investigated the effects of age and cerebral ischemia on steroid levels, behavioral outcomes, and neuronal degeneration in 3- and 18-month-old C57BL/6JRj male mice.
Ischemia was induced by middle cerebral artery occlusion for 1 hour followed by reperfusion (MCAO/R) and analyses were performed at 6 hours after MCAO. Extended steroid profiles established by gas chromatography coupled with tandem mass spectrometry revealed that (1) brain and plasma concentrations of the main 5α-reduced metabolites of progesterone, 11-deoxycorticosterone, and corticosterone were lower in old than in young mice; (2) after MCAO/R, brain concentrations of progesterone, 5α-dihydroprogesterone, and corticosterone increased in young mice; and (3) after MCAO/R, brain concentrations of 5α-reduced metabolites of progesterone, 3α5α-tetrahydrodeoxycorticosterone, and 3β5α-tetrahydrodeoxycorticosterone were lower in old than in young mice. After ischemia, old mice showed increased sensori-motor deficits and more degenerating neurons in the striatum than young mice.
Altogether, these findings strongly suggest that the decreased capacity of old mice to metabolize steroids toward the 5α-reduction pathway comparatively to young mice may contribute to the worsening of their stroke outcomes.