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Serotonin depletion counteracts sex differences in anxiety-related behaviour in rat.

Journal article
Authors Jakob Näslund
Erik Studer
Karin Nilsson
Lars Westberg
Elias Eriksson
Published in Psychopharmacology
Volume 230
Issue 1
Pages 29-35
ISSN 1432-2072
Publication year 2013
Published at Institute of Neuroscience and Physiology, Department of Pharmacology
Pages 29-35
Language en
Links dx.doi.org/10.1007/s00213-013-3133-...
Keywords Serotonin depletion, sex differences, anxiety-related behaviour
Subject categories Pharmacology

Abstract

BACKGROUND: Numerous studies suggest (1) that a major physiological role of brain serotonin-containing neurons is to modulate sex steroid-driven behaviour such as sex and aggression, (2) that sex steroids influence brain serotonergic neurotransmission and (3) that brain serotonergic neurotransmission displays sexual dimorphism. Such observations indicate that an important task for brain serotonin is to either enhance or counteract sex differences in behaviour. METHODS: To test this hypothesis, we explored the effect of short-term serotonin depletion on the behaviour of adult male and female rats in a behavioural paradigm in which males and females have been shown to behave differently, i.e. the elevated plus maze. RESULTS: Two rounds of testing of untreated Wistar rats confirmed the previous observation that females make more entries into open arms (round 1, p = 0.001; round 2, p = 0.008) and spend more time on these arms (round 1, p ≤ 0.001; round 2, p = 0.006) than males; in addition, males displayed fewer entries into closed arms upon habituation, i.e. at the second round (p ≤ 0.001) than did females. Administration of the tryptophan hydroxylase inhibitor para-chloro-phenylalanine, at a regimen (300 mg/kg/day for 3 days), markedly reducing brain content of serotonin, enhanced entries upon open arms (p = 0.01) and time spent on open arms (p = 0.004) in males but exerted no such effects in females (p = 0.9 and p = 0.9, respectively); moreover, it reduced entries into closed arms in females (p ≤ 0.001) but not in males (p = 0.1). CONCLUSIONS: Serotonin depletion abolishing the sex differences observed at baseline supports the theory that serotonin aids to uphold certain sex differences in behaviour.

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