Masculinization of the brain is dependent upon a perinatal surge in testosterone. It also requires a transient decrease in hypothalamic 5-HT concentration and turnover and an increase in androgen receptor (AR) expression during the second postnatal week. We have previously shown that increasing 5-HT activity over this period in male or androgenized female rats feminizes their adult behaviour and also feminizes the size of their anteroventral periventricular nucleus (AVPV) and sexually dimorphic nucleus of the preoptic area (SDN-POA). To investigate the role of 5-HT in sexual differentiation of the brain, 5-HT activity was raised over postnatal days 8-16 in male, female and androgenized female rats by daily administration of the 5-HT2 receptor agonist (-)[2,5 dimethoxy-4-iodophenyl]-2-amino propane hydrochloride [(-)DOI]. By postnatal day 18, the size of the AVPV and SDN-POA was sexually dimorphic; their sizes were feminized by (-)DOI treatment. In the absence of (-)DOI treatment, there were significantly more AR-immunoreactive cells in the AVPV of males, and in the SDN-POA of males and androgenized females, than in those of females on postnatal day 18. (-)DOI treatment reduced the number of AR-immunoreactive cells in the AVPV and SDN-POA of males and androgenized females, but not of females, by postnatal day 18. These results suggest that 5-HT2 receptor activation can influence sexual differentiation of the brain by controlling AR expression.
- Sexual differentiation
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