The effects of dietary treatment with S-equol on learning and memory processes in middle-aged ovariectomized rats

Steven L. Neese, Samantha L. Pisani, Daniel R. Doerge, William G. Helferich, Estatira Sepehr, Amar G. Chittiboyina, Sateesh Chandra Kumar Rotte, Troy J. Smillie, Ikhlas A. Khan, Donna L. Korol, Susan L. Schantz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The use of over-the-counter botanical estrogens containing isolated soy isoflavones, including genistein and daidzein, has become a popular alternative to traditional hormone therapies. Menopausal women use these products as an aide in healthy aging, including for the maintenance of cognitive function. The safety and efficacy of many of these commercial preparations remain unknown. Previous research in our lab found that treatment of ovariectomized (OVX) female Long-Evans rats with genistein impaired working memory in an operant delayed spatial alternation (DSA) task and response learning in a plus-maze, but enhanced place learning assessed in the plus-maze. The present study further examined the effects of isolated isoflavones on working memory and place learning by treating middle-aged (12-13. month old) OVX female Long-Evans rats with S-equol, the exclusive enantiomer produced by metabolism of daidzein in the mammalian gut. S-equol binds selectively to ERβ with an affinity similar to that of genistein but has low transcriptional potency. For DSA testing, S-equol at 1.94, 0.97. mg, or 0. mg (sucrose control) was orally administered to animals daily, 30. min before behavioral testing, and again both 4 and 8. hours after the first treatment. Rats were tested on the DSA task following the first, morning dose. For place learning, rats received 0.97. mg. S-equol every 4. hours during the light portion of the cycle beginning 48. hours prior to behavioral testing (total exposure 8.7. mg. S-equol). S-equol treatment was largely without effect on the DSA and place learning tasks. This is the first study to test the behavioral effects of isolated S-equol in OVX rodents, and shows that, unlike genistein or estradiol, repeated daily treatment with this isoflavone metabolite does not alter learning and memory processes in middle-aged OVX rats.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)80-88
Number of pages9
JournalNeurotoxicology and Teratology
StatePublished - Jan 2014


  • Aging
  • Equol
  • Executive function
  • Phytoestrogens
  • Place learning

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Toxicology
  • Developmental Neuroscience
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience


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