Physiologic progesterone reduces mitochondrial dysfunction and hippocampal cell loss after traumatic brain injury in female rats

Courtney L. Robertson, April Puskar, Gloria E. Hoffman, Anne Z. Murphy, Manda Saraswati, Gary Fiskum

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

126 Scopus citations


Growing literature suggests important sex-based differences in outcome following traumatic brain injury (TBI) in animals and humans. Progesterone has emerged as a key hormone involved in many potential neuroprotective pathways after acute brain injury and may be responsible for some of these differences. Many studies have utilized supraphysiologic levels of post-traumatic progesterone to reverse pathologic processes after TBI, but few studies have focused on the role of endogenous physiologic levels of progesterone in neuroprotection. We hypothesized that progesterone at physiologic serum levels would be neuroprotective in female rats after TBI and that progesterone would reverse early mitochondrial dysfunction seen in this model. Female, Sprague-Dawley rats were ovariectomized and implanted with silastic capsules containing either low or high physiologic range progesterone at 7 days prior to TBI. Control rats received ovariectomy with implants containing no hormone. Rats underwent controlled cortical impact to the left parietotemporal cortex and were evaluated for evidence of early mitochondrial dysfunction (1 h) and delayed hippocampal neuronal injury and cortical tissue loss (7 days) after injury. Progesterone in the low physiologic range reversed the early postinjury alterations seen in mitochondrial respiration and reduced hippocampal neuronal loss in both the CA1 and CA3 subfields. Progesterone in the high physiologic range had a more limited pattern of hippocampal neuronal preservation in the CA3 region only. Neither progesterone dose significantly reduced cortical tissue loss. These findings have implications in understanding the sex-based differences in outcome following acute brain injury.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)235-243
Number of pages9
JournalExperimental Neurology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2006
Externally publishedYes


  • Apoptosis
  • Brain mitochondria
  • Hippocampus
  • Neuroprotection
  • Progesterone

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neurology
  • Developmental Neuroscience


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