Intrahippocampal administration of an androgen receptor antagonist, flutamide, can increase anxiety-like behavior in intact and DHT-replaced male rats

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Testosterone (T) and its 5α-reduced metabolite, dihydrotestosterone (DHT), can decrease anxiety-like behavior; however, the mechanisms underlying these effects have not been established. First, we hypothesized that if T reduces anxiety-like behavior through actions of its 5α-reduced metabolite, DHT, then gonadectomy (GDX) would increase anxiety-like behavior, an effect which would be reversed by systemic administration of DHT. Second, we hypothesized that if T and DHT reduce anxiety-like behavior in part through actions at intracellular androgen receptors in the hippocampus, then administration of an androgen receptor antagonist, flutamide, directly to the hippocampus should increase anxiety-like behavior of intact and DHT-replaced, but not GDX, male rats. Inserts that were empty or contained flutamide were applied directly to the dorsal hippocampus of intact, GDX, or GDX and DHT-replaced rats 2 h prior to testing in the open field, elevated plus maze, or defensive freezing tasks. GDX rats exhibited significantly more anxiety-like behaviors than intact or DHT-replaced rats. Intact and DHT-replaced rats administered flutamide to the hippocampus showed significantly more anxiety-like behavior than did intact and DHT-replaced controls. However, flutamide alone did not increase anxiety-like behavior of GDX rats. Together, these findings suggest that androgens can decrease anxiety-like behavior of male rats in part through DHT's actions at androgen receptors in the hippocampus.

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