Altering rat sexual behavior to teach hormonal regulation of brain imprinting
Advances in Physiology Education
In this teaching laboratory, students design and perform an experiment to determine estrogen's role in imprinting the brain of neonatal rats to express either male or female sexual behavior. A discussion question is provided before the laboratory exercise in which each student is asked to search the literature and provide written answers to questions and to formulate an experiment to test the role of estrogen in imprinting the mating behavior of male and female rats. Students discuss their
... discuss their answers to the questions in laboratory with the instructor and design an experiment to test their hypothesis. In male rats, testosterone is converted by aromatase expressed by neurons in the brain to estrogen. Production of estrogen in the brain of neonatal rats imprints mating behavior in males, where a lack of estrogen action in the brain imprints female sexual behavior. The model involves administering exogenous testosterone to imprint male behavior in female pups or administration of an aromatase inhibitor (letrozole) or an estrogen receptor antagonist (ICI 182,780) to imprint female sexual behavior in male pups. In the model, litters of neonatal pups are treated with either carrier (control), testosterone propionate, aromatase inhibitor (letrozole), or an estrogen receptor antagonist (ICI 182,780) postnatally on days 1 and 3. Alteration of mating behavior is evaluated through the numbers of males and females that breed and establish pregnancy. This is a very simple protocol that provides an excellent experiment for student discussion on the effects of hormone action on imprinting brain sexual behavior.