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Absence of Female-Typical Pheromone-Induced Hypothalamic Neural Responses and Kisspeptin Neuronal Activity in α-Fetoprotein Knockout Female Mice

Publication year 2015
Published in Endocrinology
Authors Melanie Taziaux, J. Bakker

Pheromones induce sexually dimorphic neuroendocrine responses, such as LH secretion. However, the neuronal network by which pheromones are converted into signals that will initiate and modulate endocrine changes remains unclear. We asked whether 2 sexually dimorphic populations in the anteroventral periventricular and periventricular nuclei that express kisspeptin and tyrosine hydroxylase (TH) are potential candidates that will transduce the olfactory signal to the neuroendocrine system. Furthermore, we assessed whether this transduction is sensitive to perinatal actions of estradiol by using female mice deficient in α-fetoprotein (AfpKO), which lack the protective actions of Afp against maternal estradiol. Wild-type (WT) and AfpKO male and female mice were exposed to same- versus opposite-sex odors and the expression of Fos (the protein product of the immediate early gene c-Fos) was analyzed along the olfactory projection pathways as well as whether kisspeptin, TH, and GnRH neurons are responsive to opposite-sex odors. Male odors induced a female-typical Fos expression in target forebrain sites of olfactory inputs involved in reproduction in WT, but not in AfpKO females, whereas female odors induced a male-typical Fos expression in males of both genotypes. In WT females, opposite-sex odors induced Fos in kisspeptin and TH neurons, whereas in AfpKO females and WT males, only a lower, but still significant, Fos expression was observed in TH but not in kisspeptin neurons. Finally, opposite-sex odors did not induce any significant Fos expression in GnRH neurons of both sexes or genotypes. Our results strongly suggest a role for fetal estrogen in the sexual differentiation of neural responses to sex-related olfactory cues.

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