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Horm Behav. 2007 Nov;52(4):474-81. Epub 2007 Jul 14.

Elevated testosterone and reduced 5-HIAA concentrations are associated with wounding and hantavirus infection in male Norway rats.

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The W. Harry Feinstone Department of Molecular Microbiology and Immunology, The Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, 615 N. Wolfe Street, Baltimore, MD 21205, USA.


Among rodents that carry hantaviruses, males are more likely to engage in aggression and to be infected than females. One mode of hantavirus transmission is via the passage of virus in saliva during wounding. The extent to which hantaviruses cause physiological changes in their rodent host that increase aggression and, therefore, virus transmission has not been fully documented. To assess whether steroid hormones and neurotransmitters contribute to the correlation between aggression and Seoul virus infection, Norway rats were trapped in Baltimore, Maryland and wounding, infection status, steroid hormones, and concentrations of neurotransmitters, including norepinephrine (NE), dopamine (DA), 3,4-dihydroxyphenol acetic acid (DOPAC), serotonin (5-HT), and 5-hydroxyindole-3-acetic acid (5-HIAA) in select brain regions were examined. Older males and males with high-grade wounds were more likely to have anti-Seoul virus IgG and viral RNA in organs than either juveniles or adult males with less severe wounds. Wounded males had higher circulating testosterone, lower hypothalamic 5-HIAA, and lower NE in the amygdala than males with no wounds. Infected males had higher concentrations of testosterone, corticosterone, NE in the hypothalamus, and DOPAC in the amygdala than uninfected males, regardless of wounding status. In the present study, wounded males that were infected with Seoul virus had elevated testosterone and reduced 5-HIAA concentrations, suggesting that these neuroendocrine mechanisms may contribute to aggression and the likelihood of transmission of hantavirus in natural populations of male Norway rats.

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