[en] testosterone ; oestradiol ; bed nucleus of the stria terminalis ; lateral septum ; paraventricular nucleus
[en] In male rodents, the arginine-vasopressin-immunoreactive (AVP-ir) neurones of the bed nucleus of the stria terminalis (BNST) and medial amygdala are controlled by plasma testosterone levels (decreased after castration and restored by exogenous testosterone). AVP transcription in these nuclei is increased in adulthood by a synergistic action of the androgenic and oestrogenic metabolites of testosterone and, accordingly, androgen and oestrogen receptors are present in both BNST and medial amygdala. We used knockout mice lacking a functional aromatase enzyme (ArKO) to investigate the effects of a chronic depletion of oestrogens on the sexually dimorphic AVP system. Wild-type (WT) and ArKO male mice were perfused 48 h after an i.c.v. colchicine injection and brain sections were then processed for AVP immunocytochemistry. A prominent decrease (but not a complete suppression) of AVP-ir structures was observed in the BNST and medial amygdala of ArKO mice by comparison with the WT. Similarly, AVP-ir fibres were reduced in the lateral septum of ArKO mice and but not in the medial preoptic area, a region where the AVP system is not sexually dimorphic in rats. No change was detected in the supraoptic and suprachiasmatic nuclei. However, a decrease in AVP-ir cell numbers was however, detected in one subregion of the paraventricular nucleus. These data support the hypothesis that the steroid-sensitive sexually dimorphic AVP system of the mouse forebrain is mainly under the control of aromatized metabolites of testosterone.