Immediate early gene activity-regulated cytoskeletal-associated protein regulates estradiol-induced lordosis behavior in female rats

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Sensory feedback is an important component of any behavior, with each instance influencing subsequent activity. Female sexual receptivity is mediated both by the steroid hormone milieu and interaction with the male. We tested the influence of repeated mating on the level of sexual receptivity in ovariectomized rats treated with estradiol benzoate (EB) once every fourth day to mimic the normal phasic changes of circulating estradiol. Females were divided into two groups: naïve, which were tested for lordosis behavior once, and experienced rats, which were tested for lordosis after each EB injection. To monitor the effect of mating, the number of neurons expressing the immediate early gene activity-regulated cytoskeleton-associated protein (Arc) were counted in the mediobasal hypothalamus. Females were unreceptive following the first EB treatment, but the mating induced Arc expression. In naïve rats, each subsequent EB injection increased the levels of sexual receptivity. This ramping was not observed in experienced rats, which achieved only a moderate level of sexual receptivity. However, experienced females treated with EB and progesterone were maximally receptive and did not have Arc expression. To test whether the expression of Arc attenuated lordosis, Arc antisense oligodeoxynucleotides (asODN) were microinjected into experienced females' arcuate nuclei. Arc expression was attenuated, and the experienced EB-treated females achieved maximal sexual receptivity. These results demonstrate that Arc expression in the hypothalamus might influence future sexual receptivity and provides evidence of learning in the arcuate nucleus. The loss of Arc results in unrestrained sexual receptivity. © 2014 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.

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