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PLoS One. 2013 Jul 16;8(7):e69672. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0069672. Print 2013.

Increased dendritic spine density and tau expression are associated with individual differences in steroidal regulation of male sexual behavior.

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Psychology Department, University of Massachusetts, Boston, Boston, Massachusetts, United States of America.


Male sexual behavior (MSB) is modulated by gonadal steroids, yet this relationship is highly variable across species and between individuals. A significant percentage (~30%) of B6D2F1 hybrid male mice demonstrate MSB after long-term orchidectomy (herein after referred to as "maters"), providing an opportunity to examine the mechanisms that underlie individual differences in steroidal regulation of MSB. Use of gene expression arrays comparing maters and non-maters has provided a first pass look at the genetic underpinnings of steroid-independent MSB. Surprisingly, of the ~500 genes in the medial preoptic area (MPOA) that differed between maters and non-maters, no steroid hormone or receptor genes were differentially expressed between the two groups. Interestingly, best known for their association with Alzheimer's disease, amyloid precursor protein (APP) and the microtubule-associated protein tau (MAPT) were elevated in maters. Increased levels of their protein products (APP and tau) in their non-pathological states have been implicated in cell survival, neuroprotection, and supporting synaptic integrity. Here we tested transgenic mice that overexpress tau and found facilitated mounting and intromission behavior after long-term orchidectomy relative to littermate controls. In addition, levels of synaptophysin and spinophilin, proteins generally enriched in synapses and dendritic spines respectively, were elevated in the MPOA of maters. Dendritic morphology was also assessed in Golgi-impregnated brains of orchidectomized B6D2F1 males, and hybrid maters exhibited greater dendritic spine density in MPOA neurons. In sum, we show for the first time that retention of MSB in the absence of steroids is correlated with morphological differences in neurons.

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