[en] sexual behavior ; aromatase knockout mice ; exogenous estrogens
[en] We previously found that male aromatase knockout (ArKO) mice that carry a targeted mutation in exons 1 and 2 of the CYP 19 gene and as a result cannot aromatize androgen to estrogen show impaired sexual behavior in adulthood. To determine whether this impairment was due to a lack of activation of sexual behavior by estradiol, we studied here male coital behavior as well as olfactory investigation of sexually relevant odors in male ArKO mice following adult treatment with estradiol benzoate (EB) or dihydrotestosterone propionate (DHTP). Again, we found that gonadally intact ArKO males show pronounced behavioral deficits affecting their male coital behavior as well as their olfactory investigation of volatile body odors but not that of soiled bedding. Deficits in male coital behavior were largely corrected following adult treatment with EB and the androgen DHTP, suggesting that estradiol has prominent activational effects on this behavior. By contrast, adult treatment with EB to either castrated or gonadally intact ArKO males did not stimulate olfactory investigation of volatile body odors, suggesting that this impairment may result from a lack of proper organization of this behavior during ontogeny due to the chronic lack of estrogens. In conclusion, the present studies suggest that the behavioral deficits in sexual behavior in male ArKO mice result predominantly from a lack of activation of the behavior by estrogens. This is in contrast with earlier pharmacological studies performed on rats and ferrets that have suggested strong organizational effects of estradiol on male sexual behavior. (C) 2004 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.