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      c- fos Expression in the Forebrain after Mating in the Female Rat Is Altered by Adrenalectomy

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          In rats of both sexes, mating stimulates neuronal activity in forebrain areas that are also activated by stress. Hypothalamic cells in the arcuate (ARC) and paraventricular (PVN) nuclei synthesize hormones or peptides whose levels are altered by adrenalectomy. In this experiment, we examined whether the mating-induced expression of c- fos in the forebrain is altered by adrenalectomy (Adx) in female rats. Ovariectomized females were adrenalectomized (Adx) or sham-operated (Sham), hormone-primed and mated 2 weeks after surgery. They received 15 intromissions (15I), 5 intromissions (5I) or 15 mounts without intromission (MO) from a male or were taken directly from their home cage (HC). Two hours after mating, rats were perfused with paraformaldehyde and their brains were collected and stained immunocytochemically for FOS protein. FOS-immunoreactive (FOS-IR) cells in the posterodorsal medial amygdala (MePD), bed nucleus of stria terminalis (BNST), ventromedial hypothalamus (VMH), medial preoptic area (mPOA), ARC and PVN were counted bilaterally. In Sham animals, intromissions produced significant increases in FOS above HC levels. In Adx animals, mating increased FOS activity in all areas. However, responses to 5I and 15I differed between Sham and Adx groups. In all areas, Shams showed either the highest FOS response following 15I or levels which were equivalent after 5I and 15I. In Adx animals, the greatest number of FOS-positive cells occurred after 5I, with the 15I group showing significant suppression of FOS below 5I levels in the VMH, mPOA, ARC and PVN. These results demonstrate that the adrenal modulates FOS responses to mating in the female rat and suggest that adrenal secretory products normally may decrease sensitivity to low levels of mating stimulation. These effects may be due to increased corticotropin-releasing hormone (CRH) or β-endorphin in the hypothalamus after adrenalectomy.

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          Most cited references 19

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          Stressor categorization: acute physical and psychological stressors elicit distinctive recruitment patterns in the amygdala and in medullary noradrenergic cell groups.

          It has been hypothesized that the brain categorizes stressors and utilizes neural response pathways that vary in accordance with the assigned category. If this is true, stressors should elicit patterns of neuronal activation within the brain that are category-specific. Data from previous immediate-early gene expression mapping studies have hinted that this is the case, but interstudy differences in methodology render conclusions tenuous. In the present study, immunolabelling for the expression of c-fos was used as a marker of neuronal activity elicited in the rat brain by haemorrhage, immune challenge, noise, restraint and forced swim. All stressors elicited c-fos expression in 25-30% of hypothalamic paraventricular nucleus corticotrophin-releasing-factor cells, suggesting that these stimuli were of comparable strength, at least with regard to their ability to activate the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis. In the amygdala, haemorrhage and immune challenge both elicited c-fos expression in a large number of neurons in the central nucleus of the amygdala, whereas noise, restraint and forced swim primarily elicited recruitment of cells within the medial nucleus of the amygdala. In the medulla, all stressors recruited similar numbers of noradrenergic (A1 and A2) and adrenergic (C1 and C2) cells. However, haemorrhage and immune challenge elicited c-fos expression in subpopulations of A1 and A2 noradrenergic cells that were significantly more rostral than those recruited by noise, restraint or forced swim. The present data support the suggestion that the brain recognizes at least two major categories of stressor, which we have referred to as 'physical' and 'psychological'. Moreover, the present data suggest that the neural activation footprint that is left in the brain by stressors can be used to determine the category to which they have been assigned by the brain.
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            Sexual behavior decreases pain sensitivity and stimulated endogenous opioids in male rats.

            In male rats copulation has antinociceptive effects as measured either by shock-induced vocalizations or hindlimb withdrawal to pinch. Prolonged mating reduces the content of endogenous opioids in midbrain but not in hypothalamus or caudate nucleus. Blockage of opiate receptors with the narcotic antagonist naloxone (4 mg/kg) significantly extends the postejaculatory interval. The results indicate that mating is a biological stimulus for the release of endogenous opoids, possibly to (a) prevent intense sexual stimulation from becoming aversive, and (b) increase its reward value.
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              Sexual stimulation activates c-fos within estrogen-concentrating regions of the female rat forebrain.

              Regions of the brain that concentrate estrogen and progesterone are thought to regulate female sexual behavior by altering gene expression and neural sensitivity to afferent stimulation. We used immunocytochemistry and in situ hybridization to examine c-fos gene expression within estrogen-concentrating regions of the forebrain following various types of sexual stimulation with or without hormone treatment. Ovariectomized rats received injections of estradiol benzoate 48 h and progesterone 4 h before testing. Control rats that had been ovariectomized at least 5 months before testing did not receive hormone treatment. Rats were then either placed into bilevel testing chambers with sexually vigorous males, received manual stimulation of the flanks, received vaginocervical stimulation with a glass rod, or were left in their home cages. Copulation with intromission and ejaculation in hormone-treated rats, or stimulation of the vaginal cervix in both hormone-treated and control rats, produced a dramatic induction of c-fos mRNA and Fos-like immunoreactivity in estrogen-concentrating regions, such as the lateral septum, medial preoptic area, bed nucleus of the stria terminalis, paraventricular nucleus of the hypothalamus, ventromedial hypothalamus, lateral habenula, and medial amygdala, in addition to regions that do not readily concentrate estrogen, such as the neocortex, thalamus, and striatum. Mechanical stimulation of the flanks produced a smaller induction of Fos in these rats, whereas hormone treatment alone had no effect. These data demonstrate that afferent sensory stimulation, but not estrogen or progesterone, regulates c-fos gene expression within different estrogen-concentrating and non-concentrating regions of the female rat forebrain.

                Author and article information

                S. Karger AG
                June 2003
                13 June 2003
                : 77
                : 5
                : 305-313
                Department of Biology, Boston University, Boston, Mass., USA
                70283 Neuroendocrinology 2003;77:305–313
                © 2003 S. Karger AG, Basel

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                Page count
                Figures: 5, Tables: 1, References: 63, Pages: 9
                Regulation of Reproductive Hormones


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