Dynamic changes in brain aromatase activity following sexual interactions in males: Where, when and why?

Catherine De Bournonville, Molly J. Dickens, Gregory F. Ball, Jacques Balthazart, Charlotte A. Cornil

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

30 Scopus citations


It is increasingly recognized that estrogens produce rapid and transient effects at many neural sites ultimately impacting physiological and behavioral endpoints. The ability of estrogens to acutely regulate cellular processes implies that their concentration should also be rapidly fine-tuned. Accordingly, rapid changes in the catalytic activity of aromatase, the limiting enzyme for estrogen synthesis, have been identified that could serve as a regulatory mechanism of local estrogen concentrations. However, the precise anatomical localization, time-course, triggering stimuli and functional significance of these enzymatic changes in vivo are not well understood. To address these issues as to where, when and why aromatase activity (AA) rapidly changes after sexual interactions, AA was assayed in six populations of aromatase-expressing cells microdissected from the brain of male quail that experienced varying durations of visual exposure to or copulation with a female. Sexual interactions resulted in a rapid AA inhibition. This inhibition occurred in specific brain regions (including the medial preoptic nucleus), in a context-dependent fashion and time-scale suggestive of post-translational modifications of the enzyme. Interestingly, the enzymatic fluctuations occurring in the preoptic area followed rather than preceded copulation and were tied specifically to the female's presence. This pattern of enzymatic changes suggests that rapid estrogen effects are important during the motivational phase of the behavior to trigger physiological events essential to activate mate search and copulation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)789-799
Number of pages11
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2013
Externally publishedYes


  • Aromatase
  • Copulatory behavior
  • Estrogen synthesis
  • Non-genomic action of estrogens
  • Sexual motivation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
  • Endocrinology
  • Endocrine and Autonomic Systems
  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Biological Psychiatry


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