The adrenergic α2-receptor, sexual incentive motivation and copulatory behavior in the male rat

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Adrenergic α2 antagonists are known to enhance sexual incentive motivation and modify copulatory behavior while agonists are consistently inhibitory. However, many of the drugs employed in earlier studies were of modest specificity for the α2 receptor, and the importance of the different subtypes of this receptor remains completely unknown. In the present series of experiments we determined the effects on sexual incentive motivation and copulatory behavior of additional, highly specific compounds, as well as of agonists selective for each of the three subtypes of the α2 receptor. Sexual incentive motivation and copulatory behavior were evaluated in male rats in well established procedures. Among the α2 antagonists, RX 821002 reliably enhanced sexual incentive motivation while fluparoxan only had a modest effect. In large doses both drugs reduced copulatory behavior. The agonist S 18616 reduced both incentive motivation and copulation. None of the subtype selective agonists (BRL 44408, ARC 239, JP 1302) had any consistent effect. A peripheral α2 antagonist, L 659,066 was also ineffective. Even though there are some differences between α2 antagonists with regard to their effects on sexual incentive motivation and copulatory behavior it seems safe to conclude that antagonism of the adrenergic α2 receptor enhances motivation without any concomitant stimulation of copulatory behavior. It appears that antagonism of a single receptor subtype is insufficient for having this effect. Perhaps non-selective α2 antagonists could be used for the treatment of male sexual dysfunction.

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