Sex differences in the cerebroprotection by Nestorone intranasal delivery following stroke in mice

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Article (peer-reviewed)

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Our previous studies showed that intranasal delivery of progesterone offers a good bioavailability and neuroprotective efficacy after experimental stroke. We have also demonstrated that progesterone receptors (PR) are essential for cerebroprotection by endogenous progesterone and by progesterone treatment. The identification of PR as a potential drug target for stroke therapy opens new therapeutic indications for selective synthetic progestins. Nestorone® (16-methylene-17α-acetoxy-19-nor-pregn-4-ene-3, 20-dione, also known as segesterone acetate) is a 19-norprogesterone derivative that more potently targets PR than progesterone. The objective of this study was to evaluate the cerebroprotective efficiency of intranasal administration of Nestorone after middle cerebral occlusion (MCAO) in mice. We show here that intranasal administration is a very efficient route to achieve a preferential delivery of Nestorone to the brain and confers a slow elimination and a sustained bioavailability. Furthermore, intranasal administration of Nestorone (at 0.08 mg/kg) improved the functional outcomes and decreased the ischemic lesion in male but not in female mice at 48 h post MCAO. Use of PRNesCre mice, selectively lacking expression of PR in neural cells, and their control PRloxP/loxP littermates showed that the cerebroprotective effects of Nestorone in male mice depended on neural PR as they were not observed in PRNesCre mice. Our findings show that intranasal delivery of Nestorone may be an efficient strategy to promote recovery after stroke in males and confirm the key role of PR in cerebroprotection. Furthermore, they point to sex differences in the response to Nestorone treatment and emphasize the necessity to include males and females in experimental studies.