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Physiol Behav. 2009 Jun 22;97(3-4):476-83. doi: 10.1016/j.physbeh.2009.03.026. Epub 2009 Apr 2.

Serotonin, social status and sex change in the bluebanded goby Lythrypnus dalli.

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Department of Biology, Georgia State University & Center for Behavioral Neuroscience, Atlanta, GA 30303, USA.


In a variety of vertebrates, highly aggressive individuals tend to have high social status and low serotonergic function. In the sex changing fish Lythrypnus dalli, serotonin (5-HT) may be involved as a mediator between the social environment and the reproductive system because social status is a critical cue in regulating sex change. Subordination inhibits sex change in L. dalli, and it is associated with higher serotonergic activity in other species. We tested the hypothesis that high serotonergic activity has an inhibitory effect on sex change. In a social situation permissive to sex change, we administered to the dominant female implants containing the serotonin precursor 5-hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP). In a social situation not conducive to sex change, we administered either the serotonin synthesis inhibitor p-chlorophenylalanine (PCPA) or the 5-HT(1A) receptor antagonist p-MPPI. After three weeks we used HPLC to measure brain levels of 5-HT and its metabolite 5-hydroxyindoleacetic acid (5-HIAA). We also performed PCPA, p-MPPI and fluoxetine injections in size-matched pairs of females to assess its effect on dominance status. Males and newly sex changed fish showed a trend for higher levels of 5-HIAA and 5-HT/5-HIAA ratio than females. The different implants treatments did not affect the probability of sex change. Interestingly, this species does not seem to fit the pattern seen in other vertebrates where dominant individuals have lower serotonergic activity than subordinates.

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