Dietary Phytoestrogens Dampen Female Sexual Behavior in Mice With a Disrupted Aromatase Enzyme Gene

Andrea E. Kudwa, Wah C. Boon, Evan R. Simpson, Robert J. Handa, Emilie F. Rissman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

24 Scopus citations


Aromatization of testosterone (T) to estradiol (E2) during perinatal development in male rodents plays a significant role in sexual differentiation of the brain and adult behaviors. Exposure to estrogens during development can enhance masculine behaviors in adult females and reduce expression of female-typical behaviors in adult males. Previous studies have shown that, in addition to naturally occurring estrogens, dietary phytoestrogens can affect sexual differentiation. To distinguish between the effects of endogenous T-derived E2 and exogenous phytoestrogens, the authors used an aromatase knockout (ArKO) mouse that cannot produce E2 but is responsive to E2 via estrogen receptors α and β. Dams and their litters were maintained either on a standard mouse chow that was rich in phytoestrogens or on a chow nearly devoid of phytoestrogens. Mice were maintained on their perinatal diets after weaning. Adults of both sexes were gonadectomized and tested for lordosis behavior. In the ArKO females raised on a diet high in phytoestrogens, lordosis was reduced in comparison with females of both genotypes on the low phytoestrogen diet. The authors' findings suggest that dietary phytoestrogen consumption may partially defeminize adult female sexual behavior in the mouse.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)356-361
Number of pages6
JournalBehavioral Neuroscience
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 2007


  • cyp19
  • hypothalamus
  • isoflavones
  • phytoestrogen
  • sex differences

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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