Date of Award

Spring 2020

Degree Type




Director of Thesis

Dr. Rosemarie Booze

Second Reader

Dr. Charles Mactutus


The aim of this thesis is to investigate the effect of physical activity and the administration of s-equol on rates of neurogenesis in HIV-1 transgenic rats. HIV-1 is a neurodegenerative disease that leads to the wide range of cognitive impairment described as HAND. Neurogenesis is a newly discovered process that involves the birth of new neurons during our adult life within the dentate gyrus of the hippocampus. Therefore, inducing neurogenesis may be a proper therapeutic that can mitigate some of the cognitive destruction seen as a result of HIV-1 infection. Physical activity has shown to increase the rate of neurogenesis by activating BDNF proteins that stimulate brain plasticity. We used wheel running to investigate if physical activity may increase neurogenesis in our HIV-1 infected rat. S-equol has shown restorative and protective benefits for neurons. We hoped that oral doses of s-equol pellets could assist young neurons in maturation and thus, assist in successful neurogenesis. To investigate rates of neurogenesis, we used immunohistochemical techniques to stain for the doublecortin protein, which exists in neurons as they migrate between 2 and 8 weeks after birth. Tagging these proteins would indicate recent birth of neurons as a result of our experimental condition. The results indicate only a few significant effects from the introduction of physical activity and s-equol. In our rodents exposed to physical activity, we found significant effects on total counts suggesting that males grow more neurons than females, and on location of recently grown neurons with more cell counts on the ventral blade of the dentate gyrus. For animals introduced to s-equol, we found significant effects in the F344 control animals suggesting that s-equol treatment increases rates of neurogenesis in the dorsal blade of the dentate gyrus, and an interaction between location of neurons and treatment group. Between the two experiments, we did not find a significant effect of physical activity or s-equol on increasing neurogenesis in the HIV-1 transgenic animals.

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