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1 February 2001 Neuroendocrine Regulation of Sexually Dimorphic Brain Structure and Associated Sexual Behavior in Male Rats Is Genetically Controlled
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Abstract

Steroid hormones, particularly 17β-estradiol (E2), regulate the development and expression of neural structures and sexual behavior. Recently, we demonstrated that E2-regulated responses are controlled by quantitative trait loci. In this study, we quantified 1) volume of the sexually dimorphic nucleus (SDN) of the preoptic area (POA); 2) medial basal hypothalamic (MBH)-POA aromatase and 5α-reductase enzyme activities during prenatal development and in adults; 3) serum LH, testosterone, FSH, E2, prolactin (PRL), and corticosterone levels; 4) reproductive organ (i.e., testis and ventral prostate) weights; and 5) male mating behavior in Noble (NB/Cr) and Wistar-Furth (WF/NCr) rat strains to determine the genetic influence on the measured parameters. Maximal phenotypic divergence in male SDN-POA volumes was seen between NB/Cr versus WF/NCr and BDIX/Cr rats (among nine rat strains initially examined), with the average SDN-POA volume of NB/Cr male rats being significantly greater (≈30%) than that of either WF/NCr or BDIX/Cr males. Subsequent experiments investigated WF/NCr versus NB/Cr male rats in further detail. Significantly higher MBH-POA aromatase activity was seen in adult WF/NCr versus NB/Cr males, while MBH-POA 5α-reductase rates were not significantly different (within or between sex) for the two rat strains assayed. Serum LH levels were significantly higher (by greater than sixfold) in WF/NCr versus NB/Cr males, whereas testis organ:body weight and ventral prostate:body weight ratios in WF/NCr versus NB/Cr males were significantly smaller (by ≈6-fold for testis and ≈1.5-fold for prostate values). Serum FSH levels were significantly higher (by twofold) in WF/NCr versus NB/Cr males. However, serum testosterone levels were not significantly different, whereas E2 levels were approximately twofold higher (but not significantly different) in WF/NCr versus NB/Cr animals. No significant differences were found in basal (i.e., nonstress) serum PRL or corticosterone levels between the WF/NCr and NB/Cr males. In male copulatory tests, NB/Cr males exhibited significantly more aggressive sexual behavior (e.g., in mounting, intromission, and ejaculation parameters) compared with WF/NCr males. Taken together, these findings indicate that WF/NCr males are, in general, low responders, whereas NB/Cr males are high responders to hormonal signals. The obtained data suggest that the correlative, phenotypic variation in SDN-POA volume (i.e., structure) and reproductive hormone patterns and mating behavior (i.e., function) of WF/NCr versus NB/Cr males is regulated by potentially E2-mediated mechanisms that are genetically controlled.

Edwin D. Lephart, Stanford B. Call, Reuben W. Rhees, Nathan A. Jacobson, K. Scott Weber, James Bledsoe, and Cory Teuscher "Neuroendocrine Regulation of Sexually Dimorphic Brain Structure and Associated Sexual Behavior in Male Rats Is Genetically Controlled," Biology of Reproduction 64(2), 571-578, (1 February 2001). https://doi.org/10.1095/biolreprod64.2.571
Received: 19 May 2000; Accepted: 1 September 2000; Published: 1 February 2001
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