Rapid control of male typical behaviors by brain-derived estrogens
Cornil, Charlotte ; ; Balthazart, Jacques
in Frontiers in Neuroendocrinology (2012)
Beside their genomic mode of action, estrogens also activate a variety of cellular signaling pathways through non-genomic mechanisms. Until recently, little was known regarding the functional significance ... [more ▼]
Beside their genomic mode of action, estrogens also activate a variety of cellular signaling pathways through non-genomic mechanisms. Until recently, little was known regarding the functional significance of such actions in males and the mechanism that control local estrogen concentration with a spatial and time resolution compatible with these non-genomic actions had rarely been examined. Here, we review evidence that estrogens rapidly modulate a variety of behaviors in male vertebrates. Then, we present in vitro work supporting the existence of a control mechanism of local brain estrogen synthesis by aromatase along with in vivo evidence that rapid changes in aromatase activity also occur in a region-specific manner in response to changes in the social or environmental context. Finally, we suggest that the brain estrogen provision may also play a significant role in females. Together these data bolster the hypothesis that brain-derived estrogens should be considered as neuromodulators. [less ▲]Detailed reference viewed: 30 (3 ULg)
Male sexual behavior rapidly modulates the synthesis of estrogens in discrete preoptic and hypothalamic regions.
de Bournonville, Catherine ; ; Balthazart, Jacques et al
Poster (2011, January 31)Detailed reference viewed: 11 (3 ULg)
Sex differences in brain aromatase activity: genomic and non-genomic controls
Balthazart, Jacques ; ; Cornil, Charlotte et al
in Frontiers in Neuroendocrine Science (2011), 2
Aromatization of testosterone into estradiol in the preoptic area plays a critical role in the activation of male copulation in quail and in many other vertebrate species. Aromatase expression in quail ... [more ▼]
Aromatization of testosterone into estradiol in the preoptic area plays a critical role in the activation of male copulation in quail and in many other vertebrate species. Aromatase expression in quail and in other birds is higher than in rodents and other mammals, which has facilitated the study of the controls and functions of this enzyme. Over relatively long time periods (days to months), brain aromatase activity (AA), and transcription are markedly (four- to sixfold) increased by genomic actions of sex steroids. Initial work indicated that the preoptic AA is higher in males than in females and it was hypothesized that this differential production of estrogen could be a critical factor responsible for the lack of behavioral activation in females. Subsequent studies revealed, however, that this enzymatic sex difference might contribute but is not sufficient to explain the sex difference in behavior. Studies of AA, immunoreactivity, and mRNA concentrations revealed that sex differences observed when measuring enzymatic activity are not necessarily observed when one measures mRNA concentrations. Discrepancies potentially reflect post-translational controls of the enzymatic activity. AA in quail brain homogenates is rapidly inhibited by phosphorylation processes. Similar rapid inhibitions occur in hypothalamic explants maintained in vitro and exposed to agents affecting intracellular calcium concentrations or to glutamate agonists. Rapid changes in AA have also been observed in vivo following sexual interactions or exposure to short-term restraint stress and these rapid changes in estrogen production modulate expression of male sexual behaviors. These data suggest that brain estrogens display most if not all characteristics of neuromodulators if not neurotransmitters. Many questions remain however concerning the mechanisms controlling these rapid changes in estrogen production and their behavioral significance. [less ▲]Detailed reference viewed: 24 (2 ULg)
Organizing effects of sex steroids on brain aromatase activity in quail
Cornil, Charlotte ; ; Balthazart, Jacques et al
in PLoS ONE (2011), 6(4), 19196Detailed reference viewed: 23 (10 ULg)
SEASONAL AND INDIVIDUAL VARIATION IN SINGING BEHAVIOR CORRELATES WITH ALPHA 2-NORADRENERGIC RECEPTOR DENSITY IN BRAIN REGIONS IMPLICATED IN SONG, SEXUAL, AND SOCIAL BEHAVIOR
; Cornil, Charlotte ; et al
in Neuroscience (2011), 182
In seasonally breeding male songbirds, both the function of song and the stimuli that elicit singing behavior change seasonally. The catecholamine norepinephrine (NE) modulates attention and arousal ... [more ▼]
In seasonally breeding male songbirds, both the function of song and the stimuli that elicit singing behavior change seasonally. The catecholamine norepinephrine (NE) modulates attention and arousal across behavioral states, yet the role of NE in seasonally-appropriate vocal communication has not been well-studied. The present study explored the possibility that seasonal changes in alpha 2-noradrenergic receptors (alpha2-R) within song control regions and brain regions implicated in sexual arousal and social behavior contribute to seasonal changes in song behavior in male European starlings (Sturnus vulgaris). We quantified singing behavior in aviary housed males under spring breeding season conditions and fall conditions. alpha2-R were identified with the selective ligand [3H]RX821002 using autoradiographic methods. The densities of alpha2-R in song control regions (HVC and the robust nucleus of the arcopallium [RA]) and the lateral septum (LS) were lower in Spring Condition males. alpha2-R densities in the caudal portion of the medial preoptic nucleus (POM) related negatively to singing behavior. Testosterone concentrations were highest in Spring Condition males and correlated with alpha2-R in LS and POM. Results link persistent seasonal alterations in the structure or function of male song to seasonal changes in NE alpha2-Rs in HVC, RA, and LS. Individual differences in alpha2-R in the POM may in part explain individual differences in song production irrespective of the context in which a male is singing, perhaps through NE modification of male sexual arousal. [less ▲]Detailed reference viewed: 19 (8 ULg)
Rapid changes of aromatase activity in discrete brain regions following social interactions
de Bournonville, Catherine ; ; Balthazart, Jacques et al
in Trabajos del Instituto Cajal (2011), LXXXIIIDetailed reference viewed: 26 (10 ULg)
Effects of sex steroids on aromatase mRNA expression in the male and female quail brain.
; ; Balthazart, Jacques
in General and Comparative Endocrinology (2011), 170(1), 180-8
Castrated male quail display intense male-typical copulatory behavior in response to exogenous testosterone but ovariectomized females do not. The behavior of males is largely mediated by the central ... [more ▼]
Castrated male quail display intense male-typical copulatory behavior in response to exogenous testosterone but ovariectomized females do not. The behavior of males is largely mediated by the central aromatization of testosterone into estradiol. The lack of behavioral response in females could result from a lower rate of aromatization. This is probably not the case because although the enzymatic sex difference is clearly present in gonadally intact sexually mature birds, it is not reliably found in gonadectomized birds treated with testosterone, in which the behavioral sex difference is always observed. We previously discovered that the higher aromatase activity in sexually mature males as compared to females is not associated with major differences in aromatase mRNA density. A reverse sex difference (females>males) was even detected in the bed nucleus of the stria terminalis. We analyzed here by in situ hybridization histochemistry the density of aromatase mRNA in gonadectomized male and female quail that were or were not exposed to a steroid profile typical of their sex. Testosterone and ovarian steroids (presumably estradiol) increased aromatase mRNA concentration in males and females respectively but mRNA density was similar in both sexes. A reverse sex difference in aromatase mRNA density (females>males) was detected in the bed nucleus of subjects exposed to sex steroids. Together these data suggest that although the induction of aromatase activity by testosterone corresponds to an increased transcription of the enzyme, the sex difference in enzymatic activity results largely from post-transcriptional controls that remain to be identified. [less ▲]Detailed reference viewed: 39 (2 ULg)
Sexual arousal, is it for mammals only?
; Balthazart, Jacques
in Hormones and Behavior (2011), 59(5), 645-55
Sexual arousal has many dimensions and has consequently been defined in various ways. In humans, sexual arousal can be assessed based in part on verbal communication. In male non-human mammalian species ... [more ▼]
Sexual arousal has many dimensions and has consequently been defined in various ways. In humans, sexual arousal can be assessed based in part on verbal communication. In male non-human mammalian species, it has been argued that arousal can only be definitively inferred if the subject exhibits a penile erection in a sexual context. In non-mammalian species that lack an intromittent organ, as is the case for most avian species, the question of how to assess sexual arousal has not been thoroughly addressed. Based on studies performed in male Japanese quail, we argue that several behavioral or physiological characteristics provide suitable measures of sexual arousal in birds and probably also in other tetrapods. These indices include, the performance of appetitive sexual behavior in anticipation of copulation (although anticipation and arousal are not synonymous), the activation of specific brain area as identified by the detection of the expression of immediate early genes (fos, egr-1) or by 2-deoxygucose quantitative autoradiography, and above all, by the release of dopamine in the medial preoptic area as measured by in vivo dialysis. Based on these criteria, it is possible to assess in birds sexual arousal in its broadest sense but meeting the more restrictive definition of arousal proposed for male mammals (erection in an explicit sexual context) is and will probably remain impossible in birds until refinement of in vivo imaging techniques such fMRI allow us to match in different species, with and without an intromittent organ, the brain areas that are activated in the presence of specific stimuli. [less ▲]Detailed reference viewed: 10 (4 ULg)
Specific activation of estrogen recepto alpha and beta enhances male sexual behavior and neuroplasticity in male Japanese quail
Seredynski, Aurore ; ; Balthazart, Jacques et al
in PLoS ONE (2011), 6(4), 18627Detailed reference viewed: 13 (5 ULg)
Androgens and estrogens synergistically regulate the expression of doublecortin and enhance neuronal recruitment in the song system of adult female canaries.
; Barker, Jennifer ; Balthazart, Jacques et al
in Journal of Neuroscience (2011)
Vocal control nuclei in songbirds display seasonal changes in volume that are regulated by testosterone (T) and its androgenic (5α-dihydrotestosterone; DHT) or estrogenic metabolites (17β-estradiol; E2 ... [more ▼]
Vocal control nuclei in songbirds display seasonal changes in volume that are regulated by testosterone (T) and its androgenic (5α-dihydrotestosterone; DHT) or estrogenic metabolites (17β-estradiol; E2). In male canaries, T regulates expression of the microtubule-associated protein doublecortin (DCX), a marker of neurogenesis. We examined the effect of T and its two metabolites alone or in combination on DCX expression in adult female canaries. Treatment with T or with DHT+E2 increased HVC volume and neuron numbers as well as the total numbers of fusiform (migrating) and round (differentiating) DCX neurons in the nucleus but generally not in adjacent areas. DHT or E2 alone did not increase these measures but increased the density of fusiform DCX cells per section. Similar results were observed in Area X although some effects did not reach significance presumably because plasticity in X is mediated transynaptically and follows HVC changes with some delay. There was no effect of any treatment on the total number of neurons in Area X and no change in DCX cell densities was detected in other parts of the nidopallium nor in LMAN. DHT and E2 by themselves thus increase density of DCX cells migrating through HVC but are not sufficient in isolation to induce the recruitment of these newborn neurons in the nucleus. These effects are generally not observed in the rest of the nidopallium implying that steroids only act on the attraction and recruitment of new neurons in HVC without having any major effects on their production at the ventricle wall. [less ▲]Detailed reference viewed: 12 (0 ULg)
Testosterone increases cell turnover in song nucleus HVC and increases cell recruitment into Area X of adult female canaries.
Barker, Jennifer ; ; Balthazart, Jacques et al
Poster (2010, May)
In songbirds, song control nuclei such as HVC and Area X, show seasonal changes in volume that are regulated, at least in part, by the action of gonadal testosterone (T) and its metabolites. These changes ... [more ▼]
In songbirds, song control nuclei such as HVC and Area X, show seasonal changes in volume that are regulated, at least in part, by the action of gonadal testosterone (T) and its metabolites. These changes in volume are a result of changes in cell size, dendritic branching and, in HVC, the incorporation of newborn neurons. Doublecortin (DCX) is a microtubule-associated protein expressed during development and in adulthood in post-mitotic migrating and differentiating neurons in mammals. Our previous studies in male canaries demonstrated that DCX is expressed in BrdU-positive neurons consistent with DCX being a marker of neurogenesis in adult canaries. Testosterone induces marked increases in song nuclei volume in adult female canaries making these nuclei more male-like. Within the songbird brain, T can be metabolized to 5 alpha-dihydrotestosterone (DHT) and 17 beta-estradiol (E2). We found previously that both these metabolites are required to increase the volume of song nuclei in adult female canaries, but the cellular basis of this adult neuroplasticity is not well understood. Within HVC, the number of DCX-immunoreactive (ir) cells can be increased by photostimulation or treatment with T, but the effects of T and its metabolites on cell death in the songbird brain had not yet been elucidated. We therefore examined the effect of DHT and E2 on DCX expression and cell death in the song nuclei of adult female canaries. Intact female canaries were implanted with Silastic tubing containing crystalline T, DHT, E2, or a combination of DHT+E2. Control animals received empty implants. All birds were kept under early spring-like photoperiodic conditions (11L:13D) for 3 weeks. In HVC, the total number of DCX-ir cells was increased by treatment with T or DHT+E2 as compared to control birds, but was not affected by treatment with DHT or E2 alone. The number of pyknotic cells observed in the HVC was also increased by T but not by its metabolites. In Area X, the total number of DCX-ir cells was increased by treatment with T or DHT+E2, but the number of pyknotic cells was unaffected by hormone treatment. These results suggest that T enhances cellular turnover in the HVC (migration into, and cell death within, HVC), but affects only recruitment of new neurons into Area X. [less ▲]Detailed reference viewed: 36 (2 ULg)
Japanese quail as a model system for studying the neuroendocrine control of reproductive and social behaviors.
; Balthazart, Jacques
in ILAR Journal (2010), 51(4), 310-25
Japanese quail (Coturnix japonica; referred to simply as quail in this article) readily exhibit sexual behavior and related social behaviors in captive conditions and have therefore proven valuable for ... [more ▼]
Japanese quail (Coturnix japonica; referred to simply as quail in this article) readily exhibit sexual behavior and related social behaviors in captive conditions and have therefore proven valuable for studies of how early social experience can shape adult mate preference and sexual behavior. Quail have also been used in sexual conditioning studies illustrating that natural stimuli predict successful reproduction via Pavlovian processes. In addition, they have proven to be a good model to study how variation in photoperiod regulates reproduction and how variation in gonadal steroid hormones controls sexual behavior. For example, studies have shown that testosterone activates male-typical behaviors after being metabolized into estrogenic and androgenic metabolites. A critical site of action for these metabolites is the medial preoptic nucleus (POM), which is larger in males than in females. The enzyme aromatase converts testosterone to estradiol and is enriched in the POM in a male-biased fashion. Quail studies were the first to show that this enzyme is regulated both relatively slowly via genomic actions of steroids and more quickly via phosphorylation. With this base of knowledge and the recent cloning of the entire genome of the closely related chicken, quail will be valuable for future studies connecting gene expression to sexual and social behaviors. [less ▲]Detailed reference viewed: 9 (2 ULg)
Neuroplasticity and steroid-dependent male sexual behavior modulated by steroid receptor coactivator 2 (SRC2) in Japanese quail (Coturnix japonica).
Niessen, Neville-Andrew ; Balthazart, Jacques ; et al
Poster (2010)Detailed reference viewed: 10 (3 ULg)
Steroid receptor coactivator 2 (SRC-2) mediates steroid-dependent male sexual behavior and neuroplasticity in Japanese quail (Coturnix japonica).
Niessen, Neville-Andrew ; Balthazart, Jacques ; et al
Poster (2010)Detailed reference viewed: 5 (3 ULg)
Seasonal and hormonal modulation of neurotransmitter systems in the song control circuit.
; Balthazart, Jacques
in Journal of Chemical Neuroanatomy (2010), 39(2), 82-95
In the years following the discovery of the song system, it was realized that this specialized circuit controlling learned vocalizations in songbirds (a) constitutes a specific target for sex steroid ... [more ▼]
In the years following the discovery of the song system, it was realized that this specialized circuit controlling learned vocalizations in songbirds (a) constitutes a specific target for sex steroid hormone action and expresses androgen and (for some nuclei) estrogen receptors, (b) exhibits a chemical neuroanatomical pattern consisting in a differential expression of various neuropeptides and neurotransmitters receptors as compared to surrounding structures and (c) shows pronounced seasonal variations in volume and physiology based, at least in the case of HVC, on a seasonal change in neuron recruitment and survival. During the past 30 years numerous studies have investigated how seasonal changes, transduced largely but not exclusively through changes in sex steroid concentrations, affect singing frequency and quality by modulating the structure and activity of the song control circuit. These studies showed that testosterone or its metabolite estradiol, control seasonal variation in singing quality by a direct action on song control nuclei. These studies also gave rise to the hypothesis that the probability of song production in response to a given stimulus (i.e. its motivation) is controlled through effects on the medial preoptic area and on catecholaminergic cell groups that project to song control nuclei. Selective pharmacological manipulations confirmed that the noradrenergic system indeed plays a role in the control of singing behavior. More experimental work is, however, needed to identify specific genes related to neurotransmission that are regulated by steroids in functionally defined brain areas to enhance different aspects of song behavior. [less ▲]Detailed reference viewed: 14 (2 ULg)
Introduction to the chemical neuroanatomy of birdsong.
; Balthazart, Jacques
in Journal of Chemical Neuroanatomy (2010), 39(2), 67-71Detailed reference viewed: 27 (0 ULg)
Are rapid changes in gonadal testosterone release involved in the fast modulation of brain estrogen effects?
Cornil, Charlotte ; ;
in General and Comparative Endocrinology (2009)
Estradiol facilitates the expression of male sexual behavior in Japanese quail within a few minutes. These rapid behavioral effects of estradiol could result from rapid changes in its local production in ... [more ▼]
Estradiol facilitates the expression of male sexual behavior in Japanese quail within a few minutes. These rapid behavioral effects of estradiol could result from rapid changes in its local production in the preoptic area by aromatase, the enzyme converting testosterone into estradiol. Alternatively, aromatase activity may remain constant but fluctuations of local estradiol production could arise from rapid changes in the concentration of the enzymatic substrate, namely testosterone. Rapid increases of circulating testosterone levels have been observed in males of various species following social encounters. Surprisingly, in quail, the interaction with a female seems to result in a decrease in circulating testosterone levels. However, in that study conducted in quail, the samples were collected at intervals longer than the recently observed rapid effects of estradiol on sexual behavior. In the present study we investigated whether plasma testosterone concentrations fluctuate on a shorter time-frame. Eleven male were tested 5 min before and 5, 15 or 30 min after being allowed to have visual access to a female or to copulate with a female for 5 min. Both types of interactions resulted in a significant decline in circulating testosterone levels at latencies as short as 5 min. These data demonstrate that the decrease in testosterone levels is initiated shortly after sexual encounters. Because visual interactions with a female did not result in a rapid increase in testosterone concentrations, these findings rule out the possibility that a rapid rise in circulating testosterone levels participates in the rapid increase in brain estrogen synthesis and its facilitatory effects on copulatory behavior. [less ▲]Detailed reference viewed: 39 (12 ULg)
Presence of aromatase and estrogen receptor alpha in the inner ear of zebra finches.
; ; Cornil, Charlotte et al
in Hearing Research (2009)
Sex differences in song behavior and in the neural system controlling song in songbirds are well documented but relatively little is known about sex differences in hearing. We recently demonstrated the ... [more ▼]
Sex differences in song behavior and in the neural system controlling song in songbirds are well documented but relatively little is known about sex differences in hearing. We recently demonstrated the existence of sex differences in auditory brainstem responses in a songbird species, the zebra finch (Taeniopygia guttata). Many sex differences are regulated by sex steroid hormone action either during ontogeny or in adulthood. As a first step to test the possible implication of sex steroids in the control of sex differences in the zebra finch auditory system, we evaluated via immunocytochemistry whether estrogens are produced and act in the zebra finch inner ear. Specifically we examined the distribution of aromatase, the enzyme converting testosterone into an estrogen, and of estrogen receptors of the alpha subtype (ERalpha) in adult zebra finch inner ears. The anatomy of the basilar papillae was visualized by fluorescein-phalloidin, which delineated the actin structure of hair cells and supporting cells at their apical surface. Whole mount preparations of basilar papillae stained by immunocytochemistry revealed in both males and females an abundant aromatase distribution in the cytoplasm of hair cells, while ERalpha was identified in the nuclei of hair cells and of underlying supporting cells. Double labeled preparations confirmed the extensive co-localization of aromatase and ERalpha in the vast majority of the hair cells. These results are consistent with studies on non-avian species, suggesting a role for estrogens in auditory function. These findings are also consistent with the notion that estrogens may contribute to a sex difference in hearing. To our knowledge, this is the first demonstration of the presence of aromatase and of the co-localization of aromatase and ERalpha in the sensory epithelium of the inner ear in any animal model. [less ▲]Detailed reference viewed: 58 (7 ULg)
D1-like dopamine receptor density in nuclei involved in social behavior correlates with song in a context-dependent fashion in male European starlings.
; Cornil, Charlotte ; et al
in Neuroscience (2009), 159(3), 962-73
Research in songbirds shows that singing behavior is regulated by both brain areas involved in vocal behavior as well as those involved in social behavior. Interestingly, the precise role of these regions ... [more ▼]
Research in songbirds shows that singing behavior is regulated by both brain areas involved in vocal behavior as well as those involved in social behavior. Interestingly, the precise role of these regions in song can vary as a function of the social, environmental and breeding context. To date, little is known about the neurotransmitters underlying such context-dependent regulation of song. Dopamine (DA) modulates highly motivated, goal-directed behaviors (including sexually motivated song) and emerging data implicate DA in the context-dependent regulation of singing behavior. This study was performed to begin to examine whether differences in DA receptors may underlie, in part, context-dependent differences in song production. We used autoradiographic procedures to label D1-like and D2-like DA receptors to examine the relationship between DA receptor density and singing behavior in multiple contexts in male European starlings (Sturnus vulgaris). Within a breeding context (when testosterone (T) was high), D1-like receptor density in the medial preoptic nucleus (POM) and midbrain central gray (GCt) negatively correlated with song used to attract a female. Additionally in this context, D1-like receptor density in POM, GCt, medial bed nucleus of the stria terminalis (BSTm), and lateral septum (LS) negatively correlated with song likely used to defend a nest box. In contrast, in a non-breeding context (when T was low), D1-like receptor density in POM and LS positively correlated with song used to maintain social flocks. No relationships were identified between song in any context and D2-like receptor densities. Differences in the brain regions and directional relationships between D1-like receptor binding and song suggest that dopaminergic systems play a region and context-specific role in song. These data also suggest that individual variation in singing behavior may, in part, be explained by individual differences in D1-like receptor density in brain regions implicated in social behavior. [less ▲]Detailed reference viewed: 31 (4 ULg)