Parental responsiveness is feminized after neonatal castration in virgin male prairie voles, but is not masculinized by perinatal testosterone in virgin females

Joseph S. Lonstein, Benjamin D. Rood, Geert J. De Vries

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

47 Scopus citations

Abstract

We previously found a large sex difference in the parental responsiveness of adult virgin prairie voles (Microtus ochrogaster) such that most males are spontaneously parental, whereas most females are not. Because this sex difference is independent of the gonadal hormones normally circulating in adult virgin voles, the present study examined whether perinatal hormones influence the development of this sex difference. Males were treated prenatally (via their pregnant dam) with both the androgen receptor blocker flutamide (5 mg/day/dam) and the aromatase inhibitor ATD (1 mg/day/dam), or oil, for the last 2 weeks of gestation. Half of the subjects from each group were castrated on the day of birth and the other half received a sham surgery. As adults, intact males were castrated and all males received a silastic capsule filled with testosterone. Prenatal treatment with flutamide and ATD had no effect on males' behavior toward pups, but neonatal castration significantly reduced the percentage of males acting parentally. In a second experiment, females were exposed to testosterone propionate (TP; 50/μg/day/dam) or oil via their dam during the last 2 weeks of gestation. For the first neonatal week, half of the females from each group were injected with TP (1 mg/day) and the other half oil. As adults, females were ovariectomized and half from each group received a testosterone-filled capsule and the other half received an empty capsule. None of the perinatal TP treatments increased females' parental responsiveness, although females from all groups that received testosterone capsules as adults were highly parental. Therefore, although postnatal testicular hormones are necessary for high parental responsiveness in males, the behavior of females is not influenced by perinatal exposure to testosterone.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)80-87
Number of pages8
JournalHormones and Behavior
Volume41
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Jan 1 2002
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Endocrinology
  • Endocrine and Autonomic Systems
  • Behavioral Neuroscience

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