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Serotonin Depletion-Induced Maladaptive Aggression Requires the Presence of Androgens

Journal article
Authors Erik Studer
Jakob Näslund
Erik Andersson
Staffan Nilsson
Lars Westberg
Elias Eriksson
Published in Plos One
Volume 10
Issue 5
Pages Art. no. e0126462
ISSN 1932-6203
Publication year 2015
Published at Department of Mathematical Sciences, Mathematical Statistics
Institute of Neuroscience and Physiology, Department of Pharmacology
Pages Art. no. e0126462
Language en
Links dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.012...
https://gup.ub.gu.se/file/159993
Subject categories Pharmacology and Toxicology

Abstract

The sex hormone testosterone and the neurotransmitter serotonin exert opposite effects on several aspects of behavior including territorial aggression. It is however not settled if testosterone exerts its pro-aggressive effects by reducing serotonin transmission and/or if the anti-aggressive effect of serotonin requires the presence of the androgen. Using the resident intruder test, we now show that administration of the serotonin synthesis inhibitor parachlorophenylalanine (300 mg/kg x 3 days) increases the total time of attack as well as the percentage amount of social behavior spent on attack but not that spent on threat - i.e. that it induces a pattern of unrestricted, maladaptive aggression - in gonadectomized C57Bl/6 male mice receiving testosterone replacement; in contrast, it failed to reinstate aggression in those not given testosterone. Whereas these results suggest the pro-aggressive effect of testosterone to be independent of serotonin, and not caused by an inhibition of serotonergic activity, the pCPA-induced induction of maladaptive aggression appears to require the presence of the hormone. In line with these findings, pCPA enhanced the total time of attack as well the relative time spent on attacks but not threats also in wild-type gonadally intact male C57Bl/6 mice, but failed to reinstate aggression in mice rendered hypo-aggressive by early knock-out of androgen receptors in the brain (AR(NesDel) mice). We conclude that androgenic deficiency does not dampen aggression by unleashing an anti-aggressive serotonergic influence; instead serotonin seems to modulate aggressive behavior by exerting a parallel-coupled inhibitory role on androgen-driven aggression, which is irrelevant in the absence of the hormone, and the arresting of which leads to enhanced maladaptive aggression.

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