The Mechanisms Underlying Sexual Dimorphic Reproductive Behavioral Responses
Tali Kimchi, Weizmann Institute of Science
Sexually dimorphic behaviors represent a robust set of innate social and reproductive responses including mating, parental behavior and aggression. Although theses sexually dimorphic behavioral responses represent the most extreme examples of behavioral variability within a species, the basic molecular and neuronal principles underlying the sex specificity of brain activity is poorly understood.
In rodents, pheromones play a major role in controlling innate sexually dimorphic behaviors, along with substantial neuroendocrine responses. We demonstrated that genetic ablation of a gene essential to pheromone signals perception lead to sever alteration of social and reproductive behaviors in male and female mice. Specifically, mutant males that fail to detect pheromone signals display normal mating behavior with an estrous female. However, these mutant males also present of lost of sexual preference and attempt to mount male intruders instead of attacking them. Mutant females present elevated male-typical sexual courtship and behavior, indiscriminately toward either a male or a female intruder mouse. These findings demonstrate that pheromone signaling plays a critical role in sex discrimination and act to repress the initiation and maintenance of male-typical mating behavior in normal females.
We are now testing the hypothesis that neuronal circuitries responsible for pheromone-mediated dimorphic behaviors are controlled by define neuronal “switches”, in a sex-specific manner. I’ll present new findings demonstrate that pheromone-evoked release of dopamine in specific brain sites play a key role in the regulation of sex-typical social behaviors including mating behavior and pup-nursing behavior.
Background Review Article:
Catherine Dulac and Tali Kimchi. Neural mechanisms underlying sex-specific behaviors in vertebrates. Current Opinion in Neurobiology 2007, 17:675–683. Neurobiology of Behaviour. Edited by Edvard Moser and Barry Dickson.
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