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Neuroendocrinology. 1995 Oct;62(4):370-84.

Patterns of induction of the immediate-early genes c-fos and egr-1 in the female rat brain following differential amounts of mating stimulation.

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  • 1Department of Biology, Boston University, Mass. 02215, USA.


Vaginocervical stimulation received either during mating or by artificial mechanical means has been shown to induce FOS expression in medial amygdala, preoptic area, hypothalamus, and midbrain of female rats. While mating-induced increases in FOS-like immunoreactivity (FOS-IR) have been shown to require intromissive stimulation from males, the pattern of FOS-IR in animals receiving numbers of intromissions across a range relevant to the induction of the prolactin surges of early pregnancy has not been explored. Experiment 1 examined brain FOS-IR following 15 mounts without intromission or 5, 10, or 15 intromissions in ovariectomized females treated with estrogen and progesterone; these treatments are known to be less than or more than sufficient to trigger prolactin surges in cycling females. FOS was expressed in a graded fashion in the medial amygdala with respect to the numbers of intromissions received and in an all-or-nothing manner in preoptic area, bed nucleus of the stria terminalis, and ventromedial nucleus of the hypothalamus. In experiment 2, 15 intromissions induced expression of another immediate-early gene, egr-1, in each of these same areas as well as in a second division of the bed nucleus of the stria terminalis and in the paraventricular nucleus of the hypothalamus. These studies demonstrate that mating is differentially effective in inducing FOS expression in responsive brain areas and point to the medial amygdala as a site in which summation of intromissive stimulation may occur. Furthermore, the induction of EGR-1 may be a more sensitive marker for mating-induced neural activation in these areas than is FOS.

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