Organizing effects of sex steroids on brain aromatase activity in quail

Charlotte A. Cornil, Gregory F. Ball, Jacques Balthazart, Thierry D. Charlier

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

32 Scopus citations


Preoptic/hypothalamic aromatase activity (AA) is sexually differentiated in birds and mammals but the mechanisms controlling this sex difference remain unclear. We determined here (1) brain sites where AA is sexually differentiated and (2) whether this sex difference results from organizing effects of estrogens during ontogeny or activating effects of testosterone in adulthood. In the first experiment we measured AA in brain regions micropunched in adult male and female Japanese quail utilizing the novel strategy of basing the microdissections on the distribution of aromatase-immunoreactive cells. The largest sex difference was found in the medial bed nucleus of the stria terminalis (mBST) followed by the medial preoptic nucleus (POM) and the tuberal hypothalamic region. A second experiment tested the effect of embryonic treatments known to sex-reverse male copulatory behavior (i.e., estradiol benzoate [EB] or the aromatase inhibitor, Vorozole) on brain AA in gonadectomized adult males and females chronically treated as adults with testosterone. Embryonic EB demasculinized male copulatory behavior, while vorozole blocked demasculinization of behavior in females as previously demonstrated in birds. Interestingly, these treatments did not affect a measure of appetitive sexual behavior. In parallel, embryonic vorozole increased, while EB decreased AA in pooled POM and mBST, but the same effect was observed in both sexes. Together, these data indicate that the early action of estrogens demasculinizes AA. However, this organizational action of estrogens on AA does not explain the behavioral sex difference in copulatory behavior since AA is similar in testosterone-treated males and females that were or were not exposed to embryonic treatments with estrogens.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere19196
JournalPloS one
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2011
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences
  • General


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