Dopamine D1 receptors and phosphorylation of dopamine- and cyclic AMP-regulated phosphoprotein-32 in the medial preoptic area are involved in experience-induced enhancement of male sexual behavior in rats.
The medial preoptic area (MPOA) is an integral site for male sexual behavior. Dopamine is released in the MPOA before and during copulation and facilitates male rat sexual behavior. Repeated sexual experience and noncopulatory exposures to an estrous female facilitate subsequent copulation. However, the neurobiological mechanisms that mediate such enhancement remain unclear. Here, we examined the role of dopamine D₁ receptors in the MPOA in experience-induced enhancement of male sexual behavior in rats. In experiment 1, microinjections of the D₁ antagonist SCH-23390 into the MPOA before each of seven daily 30-min noncopulatory exposures to a receptive female impaired copulation on a drug-free test on Day 8, compared to vehicle-treated female-exposed animals. Copulatory performance in drug-treated animals was similar to that of vehicle-treated males that had not been preexposed to females. This effect was site specific. There were no group differences in locomotor activity in an open field on the copulation test day. In experiment 2, a separate cohort of animals was used to examine phosphorylation of dopamine- and cAMP-regulated phosphoprotein (DARPP-32) in the MPOA of animals with acute and/or chronic sexual experience. DARPP-32 is a downstream marker of D₁ receptor signaling and substrate of cAMP-dependent protein kinase (PKA). Western immunoblot analysis revealed that p-DARPP-32 expression was greatest in the MPOA of males that received both acute and chronic sexual experience, compared to all other mated conditions and naïve controls. These data suggest that D₁ receptors in the MPOA contribute to experience-induced enhancement of male sexual behavior, perhaps through a PKA regulated mechanism.
McHenry, JA; Bell, GA; Parrish, BP; Hull, EM
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