Differential plasticity of microglial cells in the rostrocaudal neuraxis of the accessory olfactory bulb of female mice following mating and stud male exposure
The formation of an olfactory recognition memory by female mice for the stud male pheromones requires two fundamental conditions: incidence of mating and retention of the stud male with the female for a critical 6 h interval following mating. This biologically critical recognition memory results from plasticity of reciprocal dendrodendritic synapses in the accessory olfactory bulb (AOB). In this study, a microglia marker antibody (ionized calcium-binding adaptor protein, Iba1) was used to determine how mating and stud pheromones affect microglia in the AOB rostrocaudal axis in female mice. The results showed that compared with estrus and mating only, mating and pheromone exposure significantly increased Iba1 immunoreactivity in the AOB evidenced by increased complexity of ramified microglial processes characteristic of resting microglial morphological phenotype, particularly in the rostral AOB. The density of Iba1 staining after mating and stud pheromone exposure was higher in the rostral – compared to caudal – AOB and was most prevalent in the external plexiform layer, the site of reciprocal mitral-granule dendrodendritic synapses. While cells with activated phenotype were observed in caudal AOB during estrus, mating/pheromone exposure appeared to induce a morphological transformation to the resting microglia phenotype. Since previous evidence implicate the rostral AOB in processing pheromonal signals and microglial cells monitor active synapses, these observations have important functional implications for a potential role for microglia in processing pheromonal signals in the AOB during the formation of olfactory memory.