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See detailFemale mice deficient in alpha-fetoprotein show female-typical neural responses to conspecific-derived pheromones.
Brock, Olivier; Keller, Matthieu; Douhard, Quentin et al

in PLoS ONE (2012), 7(6), 39204

The neural mechanisms controlling sexual behavior are sexually differentiated by the perinatal actions of sex steroid hormones. We recently observed using female mice deficient in alpha-fetoprotein (AFP ... [more ▼]

The neural mechanisms controlling sexual behavior are sexually differentiated by the perinatal actions of sex steroid hormones. We recently observed using female mice deficient in alpha-fetoprotein (AFP-KO) and which lack the protective actions of AFP against maternal estradiol, that exposure to prenatal estradiol completely defeminized the potential to show lordosis behavior in adulthood. Furthermore, AFP-KO females failed to show any male-directed mate preferences following treatment with estradiol and progesterone, indicating a reduced sexual motivation to seek out the male. In the present study, we asked whether neural responses to male- and female-derived odors are also affected in AFP-KO female mice. Therefore, we compared patterns of Fos, the protein product of the immediate early gene, c-fos, commonly used as a marker of neuronal activation, between wild-type (WT) and AFP-KO female mice following exposure to male or estrous female urine. We also tested WT males to confirm the previously observed sex differences in neural responses to male urinary odors. Interestingly, AFP-KO females showed normal, female-like Fos responses, i.e. exposure to urinary odors from male but not estrous female mice induced equivalent levels of Fos protein in the accessory olfactory pathways (e.g. the medial part of the preoptic nucleus, the bed nucleus of the stria terminalis, the amygdala, and the lateral part of the ventromedial hypothalamic nucleus) as well as in the main olfactory pathways (e.g. the piriform cortex and the anterior cortical amygdaloid nucleus), as WT females. By contrast, WT males did not show any significant induction of Fos protein in these brain areas upon exposure to either male or estrous female urinary odors. These results thus suggest that prenatal estradiol is not involved in the sexual differentiation of neural Fos responses to male-derived odors. [less ▲]

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See detailRapid activation of phosphorylated mitogen-activated protein kinase after sexual stimulation in male mice.
Taziaux, Mélanie ULg; Keller, Matthieu; Balthazart, Jacques ULg et al

in Neuroreport (2011), 22(6), 294-8

We mapped cells immunoreactive for the phosphorylated form (p44/p42) of the mitogen-activated protein kinase (pMAPK--also known as ERK1/2) in the brain of male mice after exposure to female olfactory cues ... [more ▼]

We mapped cells immunoreactive for the phosphorylated form (p44/p42) of the mitogen-activated protein kinase (pMAPK--also known as ERK1/2) in the brain of male mice after exposure to female olfactory cues or after the display of male copulatory behaviors. Exposure to soiled bedding from estrous females or the display of coital behaviors rapidly (within 10 min) induced MAPK phosphorylation in most of the brain regions known to be involved in the processing of olfactory cues (main and accessory olfactory bulbs, amygdala, and medial preoptic area) and in the control of copulatory behavior (amygdala and medial preoptic area). MAPK phosphorylation thus seems to be a useful marker to study short-term neural activation associated with the expression of specific behaviors. [less ▲]

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See detailThe alpha-fetoprotein knock-out mouse model suggests that parental behavior is sexually differentiated under the influence of prenatal estradiol.
Keller, Matthieu; Pawluski, Jodi ULg; Brock, Olivier ULg et al

in Hormones & Behavior (2010)

In rodent species, sexual differentiation of the brain for many reproductive processes depends largely on estradiol. This was recently confirmed again by using the α-fetoprotein knockout (AFP-KO) mouse ... [more ▼]

In rodent species, sexual differentiation of the brain for many reproductive processes depends largely on estradiol. This was recently confirmed again by using the α-fetoprotein knockout (AFP-KO) mouse model, which lacks the protective actions of α-fetoprotein against maternal estradiol and as a result represents a good model to determine the contribution of prenatal estradiol to the sexual differentiation of the brain and behavior. In the present study, we determined whether parental responses are differentiated prenatally under the influence of estradiol. It was found that AFP-KO females showed longer latencies to retrieve pups to the nest and also exhibited lower levels of crouching over the pups in the nest in comparison to WT females. Thus our results suggest that prenatal estradiol defeminizes the parental brain in mice. [less ▲]

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See detailOlfactory systems in mate recognition and sexual behavior.
Keller, Matthieu; Pillon, Delphine; Bakker, Julie ULg

in Vitamins and Hormones (2010), 83

Olfactory signals play an important role so that breeding efforts are synchronized with appropriate social and environmental circumstances. In this context, the mammalian olfactory system is characterized ... [more ▼]

Olfactory signals play an important role so that breeding efforts are synchronized with appropriate social and environmental circumstances. In this context, the mammalian olfactory system is characterized by the existence of several olfactory subsystems that have evolved to process olfactory information. While the vomeronasal (or accessory) olfactory system is usually conceived as being involved in the processing of pheromonal signals due to its close connections with the reproductive hypothalamus, the main olfactory system is, by contrast, considered as a general analyzer of volatile chemosignals, especially those that are used for the social identification of conspecifics. In fact, several recent sets of experiments suggest that both the main and accessory olfactory systems have the ability to process partly overlapping pheromonal chemosignals and that both systems converge at a downstream level of pheromonal processing. As a consequence, both systems have the ability to support complimentary aspects in mate discrimination and sexual behavior. However, the relative roles played by these systems and their interactions are at present still far from being understood. [less ▲]

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See detailSite-specific effects of anosmia and cloacal gland anesthesia on Fos expression induced in male quail brain by sexual behavior.
Taziaux, Mélanie ULg; Keller, Matthieu; Ball, Gregory F et al

in Behavioural Brain Research (2008), 194(1), 52-65

In rats, expression of the immediate early gene, c-fos observed in the brain following male copulatory behavior relates mostly to the detection of olfactory information originating from the female and to ... [more ▼]

In rats, expression of the immediate early gene, c-fos observed in the brain following male copulatory behavior relates mostly to the detection of olfactory information originating from the female and to somatosensory feedback from the penis. However, quail, like most birds, are generally considered to have a relatively poorly developed sense of smell. Furthermore, quail have no intromittent organ (e.g., penis). It is therefore intriguing that expression of male copulatory behavior induces in quail and rats a similar pattern of c-fos expression in the medial preoptic area (mPOA), bed nucleus of the stria terminalis (BSTM) and parts of the amygdala. We analyzed here by immunocytochemistry Fos expression in the mPOA/BSTM/amygdala of male quail that had been allowed to copulate with a female during standardized tests. Before these tests, some of the males had either their nostrils plugged, or their cloacal area anesthetized, or both. A control group was not exposed to females. These manipulations did not affect frequencies of male sexual behavior and all birds exposed to a female copulated normally. In the mPOA, the increased Fos expression induced by copulation was not affected by the cloacal gland anesthesia but was markedly reduced in subjects deprived of olfactory input. Both manipulations affected copulation-induced Fos expression in the BSTM. No change in Fos expression was observed in the amygdala. Thus immediate early gene expression in the mPOA and BSTM of quail is modulated at least in part by olfactory cues and/or somatosensory stimuli originating from the cloacal gland. Future work should specify the nature of these stimuli and their function in the expression of avian male sexual behavior. [less ▲]

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