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      Progestin Concentrations Are Increased following Paced Mating in Midbrain, Hippocampus, Diencephalon, and Cortex of Rats in Behavioral Estrus, but Only in Midbrain of Diestrous Rats

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          Background: The progesterone (P<sub>4</sub>) metabolite, 5α-pregnan-3α-ol-20-one (3α,5α-THP), acts in the midbrain ventral tegmental area (VTA) to modulate the intensity and duration of lordosis. 3α,5α-THP can also have anti-anxiety and anti-stress effects in part through actions in the hippocampus. Separate reports indicate that manipulating 3α,5α-THP levels in the VTA or hippocampus respectively can influence lordosis and affective behavior. 3α,5α-THP levels can also be altered by behavioral experiences, such as mating or swim stress. Whether endogenous levels of 3α,5α-THP modulate and/or are increased in response to affective and/or reproductively-relevant behaviors was investigated. Methods: In Experiment 1, rats in behavioral estrus or diestrus were individually tested sequentially in the open field, elevated plus maze, partner preference, social interaction, and paced mating tasks and levels of 17β-estradiol (E<sub>2</sub>), P<sub>4</sub>, dihydroprogesterone (DHP), and 3α,5α-THP in serum, midbrain, hippocampus, diencephalon, and cortex were examined. In Experiments 2 and 3, rats in behavioral estrus or diestrus, were individually tested in the battery indicated above, with, or without, paced mating and tissues were collected immediately after testing for later assessment of endocrine measures. Results: In Experiment 1, behavioral estrous, compared to diestrous, rats demonstrated more exploratory, anti-anxiety, social, and reproductive behaviors, and had higher levels of E<sub>2</sub> and progestins in serum, midbrain, hippocampus, diencephalon, and cortex. In Experiment 2, in midbrain and hippocampus, levels of 3α,5α-THP and its precursor DHP were increased among rats in behavioral estrus that were mated. In diencephalon, and cortex, DHP levels were increased by mating. In Experiment 3, in midbrain, levels of 3α,5α-THP and its precursor DHP were increased among diestrous rats that were tested in the behavioral battery with mating as compared to those tested in the behavioral battery without mating. Conclusions: Increased levels of 3α,5α-THP in behavioral estrus versus diestrous rats are associated with enhanced exploratory, anti-anxiety, social, and reproductive behaviors. Rats in behavioral estrus that are mated have further increases in 3α,5α-THP and/or DHP levels in midbrain, hippocampus, diencephalon, and cortex than do non-mated rats in behavioral estrus, whereas diestrous rats only show 3α,5α-THP increases in midbrain in response to behavioral testing that included mating.

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          Most cited references 63

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          Neuroendocrine perspectives on social attachment and love.

           C Sue Carter (1998)
          The purpose of this paper is to review existing behavioral and neuroendocrine perspectives on social attachment and love. Both love and social attachments function to facilitate reproduction, provide a sense of safety, and reduce anxiety or stress. Because social attachment is an essential component of love, understanding attachment formation is an important step toward identifying the neurobiological substrates of love. Studies of pair bonding in monogamous rodents, such as prairie voles, and maternal attachment in precocial ungulates offer the most accessible animal models for the study of mechanisms underlying selective social attachments and the propensity to develop social bonds. Parental behavior and sexual behavior, even in the absence of selective social behaviors, are associated with the concept of love; the analysis of reproductive behaviors, which is far more extensive than our understanding of social attachment, also suggests neuroendocrine substrates for love. A review of these literatures reveals a recurrent association between high levels of activity in the hypothalamic pituitary adrenal (HPA) axis and the subsequent expression of social behaviors and attachments. Positive social behaviors, including social bonds, may reduce HPA axis activity, while in some cases negative social interactions can have the opposite effect. Central neuropeptides, and especially oxytocin and vasopressin have been implicated both in social bonding and in the central control of the HPA axis. In prairie voles, which show clear evidence of pair bonds, oxytocin is capable of increasing positive social behaviors and both oxytocin and social interactions reduce activity in the HPA axis. Social interactions and attachment involve endocrine systems capable of decreasing HPA reactivity and modulating the autonomic nervous system, perhaps accounting for health benefits that are attributed to loving relationships.
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            Stress-induced elevations of gamma-aminobutyric acid type A receptor-active steroids in the rat brain.

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              Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors directly alter activity of neurosteroidogenic enzymes.

              The neurosteroid 3alpha-hydroxysteroid-5alpha-pregnan-20-one (allopregnanolone) acts as a positive allosteric modulator of gamma-aminobutyric acid at gamma-aminobutyric acid type A receptors and hence is a powerful anxiolytic, anticonvulsant, and anesthetic agent. Allopregnanolone is synthesized from progesterone by reduction to 5alpha-dihydroprogesterone, mediated by 5alpha-reductase, and by reduction to allopregnanolone, mediated by 3alpha-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase (3alpha-HSD). Previous reports suggested that some selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) could alter concentrations of allopregnanolone in human cerebral spinal fluid and in rat brain sections. We determined whether SSRIs directly altered the activities of either 5alpha-reductase or 3alpha-HSD, using an in vitro system containing purified recombinant proteins. Although rats appear to express a single 3alpha-HSD isoform, the human brain contains several isoforms of this enzyme, including a new isoform we cloned from human fetal brains. Our results indicate that the SSRIs fluoxetine, sertraline, and paroxetine decrease the K(m) of the conversion of 5alpha-dihydroprogesterone to allopregnanolone by human 3alpha-HSD type III 10- to 30-fold. Only sertraline inhibited the reverse oxidative reaction. SSRIs also affected conversions of androgens to 3alpha- and 3alpha, 17beta-reduced or -oxidized androgens mediated by 3alpha-HSD type II(Brain). Another antidepressant, imipramine, was without any effect on allopregnanolone or androstanediol production. The region-specific expression of 3alpha-HSD type II(Brain) and 3alpha-HSD type III mRNAs suggest that SSRIs will affect neurosteroid production in a region-specific manner. Our results may thus help explain the rapid alleviation of the anxiety and dysphoria associated with late luteal phase dysphoria disorder and major unipolar depression by these SSRIs.

                Author and article information

                S. Karger AG
                October 2006
                13 November 2006
                : 83
                : 5-6
                : 336-347
                Departments of aPsychology and bBiological Sciences, and the cCenters for Neuroscience and dLife Sciences Research, University at Albany-SUNY, Albany, N.Y., USA
                96051 PMC3612126 Neuroendocrinology 2006;83:336–347
                © 2006 S. Karger AG, Basel

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                Page count
                Figures: 2, Tables: 3, References: 71, Pages: 12
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