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J Neurobiol. 2006 Feb 15;66(3):197-204.

Tyrosine hydroxylase-synthesizing cells in the hypothalamus of prairie voles (Microtus ochrogaster): sex differences in the anteroventral periventricular preoptic area and effects of adult gonadectomy or neonatal gonadal hormones.

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Neuroscience Program & Department of Psychology, Michigan State University, Giltner Hall, East Lansing, Michigan 48823, USA.


The vertebrate hypothalamus and surrounding region contain a large population of cells expressing tyrosine hydroxylase (TH), the rate limiting enzyme for synthesis of dopamine and other catecholamines. Some of these populations are sexually dimorphic in rats. We here examined sex differences in TH-immunoreactive populations in the forebrain of gonadally intact and gonadectomized prairie voles (Microtus ochrogaster), a species that sometimes shows unusual sexual differentiation of brain and behavior. A sex difference was found in the anteroventral periventricular preoptic area (AVPV; likely analogous to the rat rostral A14) only in gonadectomized subjects, which was due to a 50% reduction in the number of TH-immunoreactive cells after castration in males. There was no significant sex difference or effects of gonadectomy on the number of TH-immunoreactive cells in the anteroventral preoptic area (AVP), periventricular anterior hypothalamus (caudal A14), arcuate nucleus (A12), zona incerta (A13), or posterodorsal hypothalamus (A11). In a second experiment, testosterone propionate (TP; 500 microg), diethylstilbestrol (DES; 1 microg), or estradiol benzoate (EB; 30 microg) injected daily during the first week after birth each significantly reduced later TH expression in the AVPV of females by approximately 40-65% compared to oil-treated controls. Unlike rats, therefore, a sex difference in TH expression in the prairie vole AVPV is found only after removal of circulating gonadal hormones in males. Furthermore, unlike our previous findings on the generation of sex differences in extra-hypothalamic arginine-vasopressin expression in prairie voles, TH expression in the AVPV of female prairie voles can be highly masculinized by neonatal exposure to either aromatizable androgens or estrogens.

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