Differential effects of the perinatal steroid environment on three sexually dimorphic parameters of the rat brain

R. J. Handa, P. Corbier, J. E. Shryne, J. N. Schoonmaker, R. A. Gorski

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63 Scopus citations


Gonadectomy of male rats was performed at 0, 6-7 (6 h), 12-13 (12 h), or 24 h postnatally in order to examine the influence of testosterone exposure on sexual differentiation of the brain. The indices examined were: the volume of the sexually dimorphic nucleus of the preoptic area (SDN-POA) and luteinizing hormone (LH) and follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) titers following estradiol benzoate (EB) and progesterone (P) administration. Control animals were sham-operated at 0 h and gonadectomized at 29 days of age (sham). A decrease in the percentage of males with elevated plasma LH levels following P was found with increasing delay before gonadectomy. Significant (P < 0.001) differences existed in the amplitude of plasma LH titers 5 h following P administration between sham, 0 h, and 6 h groups. Follicle-stimulating hormone was also elevated in all neonatally gonadectomized male groups following P administration, but there was no difference between the groups. Volume of the SDN-POA was significantly (P < 0.001) smaller in all gonadectomized males when compared to that of sham-operated males, but no differences existed between males gonadectomized at the different hours postpartum. In female rats gonadectomized at 0 h (F0h), LH levels were elevated 5 h following P, but only to a magnitude of 36% of that of sham-operated controls (p < 0.001). Volume of the SND-POA of the F0h group was significantly reduced (P < 0.05) when compared to that of sham females. Thus, in males, the presence of the testes prenatally may be responsible for the initiation of masculinization of LH release mechanisms and the SDN-POA, but both require further androgen exposure for their completion. In addition, the LH and FSH regulating systems show a differential sensitivity to the steroid hormone environment during development that shapes the animal's response to steroid as an adult.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)855-864
Number of pages10
JournalBiology of reproduction
Issue number4
StatePublished - 1985

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Reproductive Medicine
  • Cell Biology


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