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Brain Res. 1986 Dec 10;399(2):296-302.

Effects of androgens and estrogens on the vasopressin and oxytocin innervation of the adult rat brain.


Recently we reported that castration of rats eliminates vasopressin immunoreactivity in the lateral septum and other areas that appear to receive vasopressin innervation from the bed nucleus of the stria terminalis. Testosterone treatment counteracts this effect of castration. In the present study, we investigated whether this action of testosterone depends on its androgenic or estrogenic metabolites by treating long-term castrated rats with estradiol (E) and/or 5 alpha-dihydrotestosterone (DHT) or testosterone. The brains were then processed for immunocytochemistry or radioimmunoassay. DHT did not increase vasopressin staining in the lateral septum, although it fully restored the size of the seminal vesicles. E did restore the original fiber density, but individual fibers stained more weakly than in sham-operated males. Only treatment with both E and DHT fully restored the vasopressin innervation. This pattern was also reflected in the radioimmunoassay data. The vasopressin content of the lateral septum decreased about 90% after castration but was fully restored by either testosterone or E + DHT treatment. E alone, however, was only half as effective as E + DHT. The treatments had no effect on the oxytocin content of the septum, or on the vasopressin or oxytocin content of the dorsal vagal complex. The results suggest that E mediates most of the effects of testosterone on the vasopressin innervation of the lateral septum. DHT enhances the response to E but has little effect on its own.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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