In order to examine the effects of estrogen, androgen, and phytoestrogen on maternal behavior induced by exposure to fresh pups in ovariectomized nulliparous rats, 1 mg estradiol benzoate (EB), 1 mg testosterone propionate (TP), 1 mg coumestrol (CM), or oil (female control) was injected subcutaneously daily for 10 days. To elucidate the sex difference, 1 mg EB or oil (male control) was injected in orchidectomized rats by the same method as that used in nulliparous rats. Exposure to fresh pups was started 6 days after the first injection. Behavioral tests were carried out daily for 5 days from the first exposure to the last on the 10th day. In the behavioral test, the onset of retrieving and licking behaviors was recorded. In female control rats, the median onset day of retrieving behavior was day 5. Onset in the EB female group was day 1.5, which was shorter than that in the female control (P<0.05). TP female and CM female rats started to show retrieving at day 5 and day 4.5, respectively, comparable to the female controls. In males, the median day of retrieving onset in the control and EB groups was over day 5 and day 4.5, respectively. No statistical difference was seen between the female and male controls. In contrast, there was a difference between the EB-treated female and EB male groups. Licking activity was less frequent than seen in the retrieving behavior among all groups, but there was no statistical difference among the groups. These results suggest that estrogen facilitates retrieving behavior in female, but not in male rats. TP and CM have no effect on retrieving behavior in female rats.
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