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J Neurobiol. 2002 Apr;51(1):33-42.

Perineal muscles and motoneurons are sexually monomorphic in the naked mole-rat (Heterocephalus glaber).

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Center for Neuroendocrine Studies, University of Massachusetts, Amherst, Massachusetts 01003, USA.


Naked mole-rats are eusocial mammals that live in colonies with a single breeding female and one to three breeding males. All other members of the colony, known as subordinates, are nonreproductive and exhibit few sex differences in behavior or genital anatomy. This raises questions about the degree of sexual differentiation in subordinate naked mole-rats. The striated perineal muscles associated with the phallus [the bulbocavernosus (BC), ischiocavernosus (IC), and levator ani (LA) muscles], and their innervating motoneurons, are sexually dimorphic in all rodents examined to date. We therefore asked whether perineal muscles and motoneurons were also sexually dimorphic in subordinate naked mole-rats. Muscles similar to the LA and IC of other rodents were found in naked mole-rats of both sexes. No clear BC muscle was identified, although a large striated muscle associated with the urethra in male and female naked mole-rats may be homologous to the BC of other rodents. There were no sex differences in the volumes of the LA, IC, or the urethral muscles. Motoneurons innervating the perineal muscles were identified by retrograde labeling with cholera-toxin-conjugated horseradish peroxidase. All perineal motoneurons were found in a single cluster in the ventrolateral lateral horn, in a position similar to that of Onuf's nucleus of carnivores and primates. There was no sex difference in the size or number of motoneurons in Onuf's nucleus of naked mole-rats. Thus, unlike findings in any other mammal, neither the perineal muscles nor the perineal motoneurons appear to be sexually differentiated in subordinate naked mole-rats.

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