Fos induction in the Japanese quail brain after expression of appetitive and consummatory aspects of male sexual behavior

Omar Tlemçani, Gregory F. Ball, Els D'Hondt, Frans Vandesande, Peter J. Sharp, Jacques Balthazart

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40 Scopus citations


We investigated the expression of Fos, the protein product of the immediate early gene c-fos in the brain of male Japanese quail after they engaged in either appetitive or consummatory sexual behavior (i.e., copulation). For 1 h, castrated males treated with testosterone were either allowed to copulate with a female or to exhibit a learned social proximity response indicative of appetitive sexual behavior. Control birds were either left in their home cage or placed in the experimental chamber but did not exhibit the appetitive sexual behavior because they had never learned it. Fos expression was studied with an immunocytochemical procedure in two sets of adjacent sections through the entire forebrain. These sections were immunolabelled with 2 different antibodies raised against a synthetic fragment corresponding to the 21 carboxy-terminal residues of the chicken Fos sequence. Contrary to the results of a previous study in which gonadally intact birds were used, Fos induction was observed neither in the medial preoptic nucleus nor in the nucleus intercollicularis in birds that had interacted for 1 h with a female. This may be related to a lower frequency of copulation in the testosterone-implanted birds than in intact birds, or to differences in the time the brains were collected after the birds engaged in sexual behavior between the two studies (60 min in this study, 120 min in the previous study). The performance of copulation and/or appetitive sexual behavior increased the number of Fos-immunoreactive cells in the ventral hyperstriatum, medial archistriatum, and nucleus striae terminalis. These increases were observed using both antibodies, although each antibody produced minor differences in the number of Fos-immunoreactive cells observed. Using one of the antibodies, but not the other, increases in Fos immunoreactivity were also observed in the nucleus accumbens and hyperstriatum after either copulation or appetitive sexual behavior. These differences illustrate how minor technical variations in the Fos immunocytochemical procedure influence the results obtained. These differences also show that Fos induction in a number of brain regions is observed after performance of consummatory (copulation) as well as appetitive (looking at the female) sexual behavior. This induction is, therefore, not related solely to the control of copulatory acts but, presumably, also to the processing in a variety of telencephalic association areas of stimuli originating from the female. The observation that increased Fos immunoreactivity is present in birds that had learned the response indicative of appetitive sexual behavior, and not in those that had not learned the behavior, further indicates that it is not simply the sight of the female that results in this Fos induction, but the analysis of the relevant stimuli in a sexually explicit context. Conditioned neural activity resulting from a learned association between the stimulus female and the performance of copulatory behavior may also explain some aspects of the brain activation observed in birds viewing, but not allowed to interact with, the female. Copyright (C) 2000 Elsevier Science Inc.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)249-262
Number of pages14
JournalBrain Research Bulletin
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jul 1 2000


  • Appetitive sexual behavior
  • Copulation
  • Coturnix japonica
  • Immediate early genes
  • Sexual behavior
  • Testosterone

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)


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