Revisiting medial preoptic area plasticity induced in male mice by sexual experience.
ABSTRACT: Sexual experience in male rodents, induced by a first exposure to a receptive female, improves efficiency of following copulations. In mice, the mechanisms supporting this improvement are poorly understood. We characterized molecular modifications of the mouse hypothalamic medial preoptic area (mPOA), the main integrative structure for male sexual behaviour, after a single mating event. This paradigm induced long-lasting behavioural improvements and mPOA morphological changes, evidenced by dendritic spine maturation and an increase in the acetylated and tri-methylated forms of histone H3. Ejaculation affected testosterone, progesterone and corticosterone levels in both naive and experienced mice, but sexual experience did not modify basal plasma or hypothalamic levels of steroids. In contrast to studies carried out in rats, no changes were observed, either in the nitrergic system, or in sex steroid receptor levels. However, levels of glutamate- and calcium-associated proteins, including PSD-95, calbindin and the GluN1 subunit of the NMDA receptor, were increased in sexually experienced male mice. The Iba-1 microglial marker was up-regulated in these animals suggesting multicellular interactions induced within the mPOA by sexual experience. In conclusion, plasticity mechanisms induced by sexual experience differ between rat and mouse, even if in both cases they converge to potentiation of the mPOA network.
Project description:Testosterone is involved in male sexual, parental and aggressive behaviors through the androgen receptor (AR) and estrogen receptor (ER) ? expressed in the brain. Although several studies have demonstrated that ER? and AR in the medial preoptic area (MPOA) are required for exhibiting sexual and aggressive behaviors of male mice, the molecular characteristics of ER?- and AR-expressing cells in the mouse MPOA are largely unknown. Here, we performed in situ hybridization for neurotransmitters and neuropeptides, combined with immunohistochemistry for ER? and AR to quantitate and characterize gonadal steroid receptor-expressing cells in the MPOA subregions of male mice. Prodynorphin, preproenkephalin (Penk), cocaine- and amphetamine-related transcript, neurotensin, galanin, tachykinin (Tac)1, Tac2 and thyrotropin releasing hormone (Trh) have distinct expression patterns in the MPOA subregions. Gad67-expressing cells were the most dominant neuronal subtype among the ER?- and AR-expressing cells throughout the MPOA. The percentage of ER?- and AR-immunoreactivities varied depending on the neuronal subtype. A substantial proportion of the neurotensin-, galanin-, Tac2- and Penk-expressing cells in the MPOA were positive for ER? and AR, whereas the vast majority of the Trh-expressing cells were negative. These results suggest that testosterone exerts differential effects depending on both the neuronal subtypes and MPOA subregions.
Project description:Brown adipose tissue (BAT) thermogenesis is critical to maintain homoeothermia and is centrally controlled via sympathetic outputs. Body temperature and BAT activity also impact energy expenditure, and obesity is commonly associated with decreased BAT capacity and sympathetic tone. Severely obese mice that lack leptin or its receptor (LepRb) show decreased BAT capacity, sympathetic tone, and body temperature and thus are unable to adapt to acute cold exposure (Trayhurn et al., 1976). LepRb-expressing neurons are found in several hypothalamic sites, including the dorsomedial hypothalamus (DMH) and median preoptic area (mPOA), both critical sites to regulate sympathetic, thermoregulatory BAT circuits. Specifically, a subpopulation in the DMH/dorsal hypothalamic area (DHA) is stimulated by fever-inducing endotoxins or cold exposure (Dimicco and Zaretsky, 2007; Morrison et al., 2008). Using the retrograde, transsynaptic tracer pseudorabies virus (PRV) injected into the BAT of mice, we identified PRV-labeled LepRb neurons in the DMH/DHA and mPOA (and other sites), thus indicating their involvement in the regulation of sympathetic BAT circuits. Indeed, acute cold exposure induced c-Fos (as a surrogate for neuronal activity) in DMH/DHA LepRb neurons, and a large number of mPOA LepRb neurons project to the DMH/DHA. Furthermore, DMH/DHA LepRb neurons (and a subpopulation of LepRb mPOA neurons) project and synaptically couple to rostral raphe pallidus neurons, consistent with the current understanding of BAT thermoregulatory circuits from the DMH/DHA and mPOA (Dimicco and Zaretsky, 2007; Morrison et al., 2008). Thus, these data present strong evidence that LepRb neurons in the DMH/DHA and mPOA mediate thermoregulatory leptin action.
Project description:Perineuronal nets (PNNs) are aggregations of extracellular matrix associated with specific neuronal populations in the central nervous system, suggested to play key roles in neural development, synaptogenesis and experience-dependent synaptic plasticity. Pregnancy and lactation are characterized by a dramatic increase in neuroplasticity. However, dynamic changes in the extracellular matrix associated with maternal circuits have been mostly overlooked. We analyzed the structure of PNNs in an essential nucleus of the maternal circuit, the medial preoptic area (mPOA), during the reproductive cycle of rats, using the Wisteria floribunda (WFA) label. PNNs associated to neurons in the mPOA start to assemble halfway through gestation and become highly organized prior to parturition, fading through the postpartum period. This high expression of PNNs during pregnancy appears to be mediated by the influence of estrogen, progesterone and prolactin, since a hormonal simulated-gestation treatment induced the expression of PNNs in ovariectomized females. We found that PNNs associated neurons in the mPOA express estrogen receptor ? and progesterone receptors, supporting a putative role of reproductive hormones in the signaling mechanisms that trigger the assembly of PNNs in the mPOA. This is the first report of PNNs presence and remodeling in mPOA during adulthood induced by physiological variables.
Project description:The medial preoptic area (mPOA) differs between males and females in nearly all species examined to date, including humans. Here, using fiber photometry recordings of Ca2+ transients in freely behaving mice, we show ramping activities in the mPOA that precede and correlate with sexually dimorphic display of male-typical mounting and female-typical pup retrieval. Strikingly, optogenetic stimulation of the mPOA elicits similar display of mounting and pup retrieval in both males and females. Furthermore, by means of recording, ablation, optogenetic activation, and inhibition, we show mPOA neurons expressing estrogen receptor alpha (Esr1) are essential for the sexually biased display of these behaviors. Together, these results underscore the shared layout of the brain that can mediate sex-specific behaviors in both male and female mice and provide an important functional frame to decode neural mechanisms governing sexually dimorphic behaviors in the future.
Project description:Neural systems underlying important behaviors are usually highly conserved across species. The medial preoptic area (MPOA) has been demonstrated to play a crucial role in reward associated with affiliative, nonsexual, social communication in songbirds. However, the role of MPOA in affiliative, rewarding social behaviors (eg, social play behavior) in mammals remains largely unknown. Here we applied our insights from songbirds to rats to determine whether opioids in the MPOA govern social play behavior in rats. Using an immediate early gene (ie, Egr1, early growth response 1) expression approach, we identified increased numbers of Egr1-labeled cells in the MPOA after social play in adolescent male rats. We also demonstrated that cells expressing mu opioid receptors (MORs, gene name Oprm1) in the MPOA displayed increased Egr1 expression when adolescent rats were engaged in social play using double immunofluorescence labeling of MOR and Egr1. Furthermore, using short hairpin RNA-mediated gene silencing we revealed that knockdown of Oprm1 in the MPOA reduced the number of total play bouts and the frequency of pouncing. Last, RNA sequencing differential gene expression analysis identified genes involved in neuronal signaling with altered expression after Oprm1 knockdown, and identified Egr1 as potentially a key modulator for Oprm1 in the regulation of social play behavior. Altogether, these results show that the MPOA is involved in social play behavior in adolescent male rats and support the hypothesis that the MPOA is part of a conserved neural circuit across vertebrates in which opioids act to govern affiliative, intrinsically rewarded social behaviors.
Project description:The sex-steroid hormone estradiol (E2) enhances the psychoactive effects of cocaine, as evidenced by clinical and preclinical studies. The medial preoptic area (mPOA), a region in the hypothalamus, is a primary neural locus for neuroendocrine integration, containing one of the richest concentrations of estrogen receptors in the CNS and also has a key role in the regulation of naturally rewarding behaviors. However, whether estradiol enhances the neurochemical response to cocaine by acting in the mPOA is still unclear. Using neurotoxic lesions and microdialysis, we examined whether the mPOA modulates cocaine-induced neurochemical activity in the nucleus accumbens. Tract tracing and immunohistochemical staining were used to determine whether projections from the mPOA to the ventral tegmental area (VTA) are sensitive to estrogen signaling. Finally, estradiol microinjections followed by microdialysis were used to determine whether estrogenic signaling in the mPOA modulates cocaine-induced changes of dopamine in the nucleus accumbens. Results showed that lesions of the mPOA or microinjections of estradiol directly into the mPOA increased cocaine-induced release of dopamine in the nucleus accumbens. Immunohistochemical analyses revealed that the mPOA modulates cocaine responsiveness via projections to both dopaminergic and GABAergic neurons in the VTA, and that these projections are sensitive to estrogenic stimulation. Taken together, these findings point to a novel estradiol-dependent pathway that modulates cocaine-induced neurochemical activity in the mesolimbic system.
Project description:Neural networks that control reproduction must integrate social and hormonal signals, tune motivation, and coordinate social interactions. However, the neural circuit mechanisms for these processes remain unresolved. The medial preoptic area (mPOA), an essential node for social behaviors, comprises molecularly diverse neurons with widespread projections. Here we identify a steroid-responsive subset of neurotensin (Nts)-expressing mPOA neurons that interface with the ventral tegmental area (VTA) to form a socially engaged reward circuit. Using in vivo two-photon imaging in female mice, we show that mPOANts neurons preferentially encode attractive male cues compared to nonsocial appetitive stimuli. Ovarian hormone signals regulate both the physiological and cue-encoding properties of these cells. Furthermore, optogenetic stimulation of mPOANts-VTA circuitry promotes rewarding phenotypes, social approach and striatal dopamine release. Collectively, these data demonstrate that steroid-sensitive mPOA neurons encode ethologically relevant stimuli and co-opt midbrain reward circuits to promote prosocial behaviors critical for species survival.
Project description:Animals integrate social information with their internal endocrine state to control the timing of behavior, but how these signals are integrated in the brain is not understood. The medial preoptic area (mPOA) may play an integrative role in the control of courtship behavior, as it receives projections from multiple sensory systems, and is central to the hormonal control of courtship behavior across vertebrates. Additionally, data from many species implicate opioid and dopaminergic systems in the mPOA in the control of male courtship behavior. We used European starlings to test the hypothesis that testosterone (T) and social status (in the form of territory possession) interact to control the timing of courtship behavior by modulating steroid hormone-, opioid- and dopaminergic-related gene expression in the mPOA. We found that only males given both T and a nesting territory produced high rates of courtship behavior in response to a female. T treatment altered patterns of gene expression in the mPOA by increasing androgen receptor, aromatase, mu-opioid receptor and preproenkephalin mRNA and decreasing tyrosine hydroxylase mRNA expression. Territory possession did not alter mRNA expression in the mPOA, despite the finding that only birds with both T and a nesting territory produced courtship behavior. We propose that T prepares the mPOA to respond to the presence of a female with high rates of courtship song by altering gene expression, but that activity in the mPOA is under a continuous (i.e. tonic) inhibition until a male starling obtains a nesting territory.
Project description:Sexual harassment is common among poeciliid fish. In some fishes, males show a high frequency of sneak copulation; such sexual activity is costly to the females in terms of foraging efficiency. In mosquitofish (Gambusia holbrooki), when males are present, the distance between females tends to decrease, and this behavior has been interpreted as an adaptive strategy to dilute the costs of male sexual activity. In this study, the tendency to reduce distance in the presence of a male has been investigated in females of six poeciliid species (Girardinus metallicus, Girardinus falcatus, G. holbrooki, Poecilia reticulata, Xiphophorus hellerii, and Xiphophorus mayae) that exhibit different male mating strategies and different levels of sexual activity. Results revealed large interspecific differences in the pattern of female aggregation. Females of species with a high frequency of sneak copulations tended to reduce their social distance in the presence of a male. By contrast, species that rely mainly on courtship showed little or no variation in social distance. The proportion of sneak copulations predicts the degree of variation in female social response, but the amount of total sexual activity does not, suggesting that the change in females' social distance when a male is present may indeed serve to reduce the costs of male sexual harassment.
Project description:Masculinization of the altricial rodent brain is driven by estrogen signaling during a perinatal critical period. Genetic deletion of estrogen receptor alpha (Esr1/ER?) results in altered hypothalamic-pituitary-gonadal (HPG) axis signaling and a dramatic reduction of male sexual and territorial behaviors. However, the role of ER? in masculinizing distinct classes of neurons remains unexplored. We deleted ER? in excitatory or inhibitory neurons using either a Vglut2 or Vgat driver and assessed male behaviors. We find that Vglut2-Cre;Esr1lox/lox mutant males lack ER? in the ventrolateral region of the ventromedial hypothalamus (VMHvl) and posterior ventral portion of the medial amygdala (MePV). These mutants recapitulate the increased serum testosterone levels seen with constitutive ER? deletion, but have none of the behavioral deficits. In contrast, Vgat-Cre;Esr1lox/lox males with substantial ER? deletion in inhibitory neurons, including those of the principal nucleus of the bed nucleus of the stria terminalis (BNSTpr), posterior dorsal MeA (MePD), and medial preoptic area (MPOA) have normal testosterone levels, but display alterations in mating and territorial behaviors. These mutants also show dysmasculinized expression of androgen receptor (AR) and estrogen receptor beta (Esr2). Our results demonstrate that ER? masculinizes GABAergic neurons that gate the display of male-typical behaviors.