Effects of sex steroids on aromatase mRNA expression in the male and female quail brain

Cornelia Voigt, Gregory F. Ball, Jacques Balthazart

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


Castrated male quail display intense male-typical copulatory behavior in response to exogenous testosterone but ovariectomized females do not. The behavior of males is largely mediated by the central aromatization of testosterone into estradiol. The lack of behavioral response in females could result from a lower rate of aromatization. This is probably not the case because although the enzymatic sex difference is clearly present in gonadally intact sexually mature birds, it is not reliably found in gonadectomized birds treated with testosterone, in which the behavioral sex difference is always observed. We previously discovered that the higher aromatase activity in sexually mature males as compared to females is not associated with major differences in aromatase mRNA density. A reverse sex difference (females > males) was even detected in the bed nucleus of the stria terminalis. We analyzed here by in situ hybridization histochemistry the density of aromatase mRNA in gonadectomized male and female quail that were or were not exposed to a steroid profile typical of their sex. Testosterone and ovarian steroids (presumably estradiol) increased aromatase mRNA concentration in males and females respectively but mRNA density was similar in both sexes. A reverse sex difference in aromatase mRNA density (females > males) was detected in the bed nucleus of subjects exposed to sex steroids. Together these data suggest that although the induction of aromatase activity by testosterone corresponds to an increased transcription of the enzyme, the sex difference in enzymatic activity results largely from post-transcriptional controls that remain to be identified.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)180-188
Number of pages9
JournalGeneral and Comparative Endocrinology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2011
Externally publishedYes


  • Aromatase
  • Aromatase mRNA
  • In situ hybridization
  • Japanese quail
  • Preoptic area
  • Sex differences

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Endocrinology


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