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Mechanisms of reproductive aging: conserved mechanisms and environmental factors


Address for correspondence: Mary Ann Ottinger, Department of Animal and Avian Sciences, University of Maryland, 3115 Animal Science Building, College Park, Maryland 20742.


The interplay of neuroendocrine processes and gonadal function is exquisitely expressed during aging. In females, loss of ovarian function results in decreased circulating estradiol. As a result, estrogen-dependent endocrine and behavioral responses decline, including impaired cognitive function reflecting the impact of declining estrogen on the hippocampus circuits, and decreased metabolic endocrine function. Concurrently, age-related changes in neuroendocrine response also contribute to the declining reproductive function. Our session considered key mechanisms in reproductive aging including the roles of ovarian function (Finch and Holmes) and the hypothalamic median eminence (Yin and Gore) with an associated age-related cognitive decline that accompanies estrogen loss (Morrison and colleagues). Effects of smoking, obesity, and insulin resistance (Sowers and colleagues) impact the timing of the perimenopause transition in women. Animal models provide excellent insights into conserved mechanisms and key overarching events that bring about endocrine and behavioral aging. Environmental factors are key triggers in timing endocrine aging with implications for eventual disease. Session presentations will be considered in the context of the broader topic of indices and predictors of aging-related change.