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Curr Top Behav Neurosci. 2011;8:15-36. doi: 10.1007/7854_2010_116.

Differences in sexual behaviour in male and female rodents: role of serotonin.

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Division of Pharmacology, Utrecht Institute for Pharmaceutical Sciences and Rudolf Magnus Institute of Neuroscience, Utrecht University, Sorbonnelaan 16, 3584, CA, Utrecht, The Netherlands.


Serotonin plays an important role in both male and female sexual behaviour. In general, reduction of 5-HT function facilitates, whereas enhancement inhibits sexual behaviour. Most fundamental research on the involvement of 5-HT in sex has been performed in rats. Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) have comparable effects on male and female sexual behaviour in rats; they inhibit it but only after chronic administration. Activation of the 5-HT(1A) receptor facilitates sexual behaviour in male rats but inhibits sexual behaviour in female rats, suggesting a differential role for 5-HT(1A) receptors in male and female rats. Research on sexual behaviour in rats with null mutations in the serotonin transporter (SERT) indicated also a differential role for 5-HT(1A) receptors in male and female sexual behaviour. Evidence exists that different pools of 5-HT(1A) receptors have differential roles in various parts of the cascade of sexual events occurring during sexual interactions. Roles for other 5-HT receptors are less well defined although 5-HT(1B), 5-HT(2A/B) and 5-HT(7) receptors seem to be involved. Identification of putative differential or comparable roles in female and male sexual activities requires more research.

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