Sexual Motivation in Male Rats is Modulated by Tropomyosin Receptor Kinase B (TrkB)

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The expression of brain derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) and tropomyosin receptor kinase B (TrkB) are regulated by gonadal hormone signaling and are expressed in brain areas that are important for sexual behaviors. Accordingly, BDNF and TrkB signaling have been shown to be important for the expression of consummatory sexual behaviors. However, the role of TrkB in sexually motivated behaviors remains to be fully elucidated. To this end, male rats were administered either the TrkB antagonist, ANA-12, or a vehicle control prior to sexual motivation testing, which took place on a noncontact version of a partner preference task. Vehicle treated rats, but not rats treated with ANA-12, exhibited a preference for the sexually receptive stimulus female rat relative to the sexually active stimulus male rat, as indicated by the percentage of time and entries in the vicinity of the female throughout the entire 20-min test. In addition, when compared directly with vehicle treated rats, rats treated with ANA-12 exhibited a significant decrease in levels of sexual motivation as indicated by the magnitude of each group’s preference for the female during the early stages of testing. Collectively, these results suggest that TrkB plays a role in the sexual preferences and corresponding initial levels of sexual motivation in male rats.

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