Alzheimer's disease (AD) is a debilitating neurodegenerative disorder characterized by increased β-amyloid (Aβ) deposition and neuronal dysfunction leading to impaired learning and recall. Ageing, heredity, and induced oxidative stress are among proposed risk factors. The increased frequency of the disease in women also suggests a role for estrogen in development of AD. In the present study, effects of the phytoestrogen genistein (10mg/kg) on learning and memory impairments was assessed in intrahippocampal Aβ(1-40)-injected rats. The estrogen receptor antagonist fulvestrant was injected intracerebroventricularly in a group of Aβ-lesioned rats. The Aβ-injected animals exhibited the following: lower spontaneous alternation score in Y-maze tasks, impaired retention and recall capability in the passive avoidance test, and fewer correct choices and more errors in the RAM task. Genistein, but not genistein and fulvestrant, significantly improved most of these parameters. Measurements of oxidative stress markers in hippocampal tissue of Aβ-injected rats showed an elevation of malondialdehyde (MDA) and nitrite content, and a reduction of superoxide dismutase (SOD) activity. Genistein significantly attenuated the increased MDA content but did not affect the nitrite content or SOD activity. These results indicate that genistein pretreatment ameliorates Aβ-induced impairment of short-term spatial memory in rats through an estrogenic pathway and by inducing attenuation of oxidative stress.
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