We hypothesized that dietary administration of the peroxisomal proliferator-activated receptor α agonist, fenofibrate, to young adult male rats would prevent the fractionated whole-brain irradiation (fWBI)-induced reduction in cognitive function and neurogenesis and prevent the fWBI-induced increase in the total number of activated microglia. Eighty 12–14-week-old young adult male Fischer 344 × Brown Norway rats received either: (1) sham irradiation, (2) 40 Gy of fWBI delivered as two 5 Gy fractions/week for 4 weeks, (3) sham irradiation + dietary fenofibrate (0.2% w/w) starting 7 days prior to irradiation, or (4) fWBI + fenofibrate. Cognitive function was measured 26–29 weeks after irradiation using: (1) the perirhinal cortex (PRh)-dependent novel object recognition task; (2) the hippocampal-dependent standard Morris water maze (MWM) task; (3) the hippocampal-dependent delayed match-to-place version of the MWM task; and (4) a cue strategy preference version of the MWM to distinguish hippocampal from striatal task performance. Neurogenesis was assessed 29 weeks after fWBI in the granular cell layer and subgranular zone of the dentate gyrus using a doublecortin antibody. Microglial activation was assessed using an ED1 antibody in the dentate gyrus and hilus of the hippocampus. A significant impairment in perirhinal cortex-dependent cognitive function was measured after fWBI. In contrast, fWBI failed to alter hippocampal-dependent cognitive function, despite a significant reduction in hippocampal neurogenesis. Continuous administration of fenofibrate prevented the fWBI-induced reduction in perirhinal cortex-dependent cognitive function, but did not prevent the radiation-induced reduction in neurogenesis or the radiation-induced increase in activated microglia. These data suggest that fenofibrate may be a promising therapeutic for the prevention of some modalities of radiation-induced cognitive impairment in brain cancer patients.

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