Hormone-neurotransmitter interactions
in the control of sexual behavior

Hull EM, Lorrain DS, Du J, Matuszewich L,
Lumley LA, Putnam SK, Moses J
Department of Psychology,
State University of New York at Buffalo,
14260-4110, USA.
Behav Brain Res 1999 Nov 1; 105(1):105-16


The stimuli from a receptive female and/or copulation itself leads to the release of dopamine (DA) in at least three integrative hubs. The nigrostriatal system promotes somatomotor activity; the mesolimbic system subserves numerous types of motivation; and the medial preoptic area (MPOA) focuses the motivation onto specifically sexual targets, increases copulatory rate and efficiency, and coordinates genital reflexes. The previous (but not necessarily concurrent) presence of testosterone is permissive for DA release in the MPOA, both during basal conditions and in response to a female. One means by which testosterone may increase DA release is by upregulating nitric oxide synthase, which produces nitric oxide, which in turn increases DA release. Hormonal priming in females may also increase DA release in the MPOA, and copulatory activity may further increase DA levels in females. One of the intracellular effects of stimulation of DA D1 receptors in the MPOA of male rats may be increased expression of the immediate-early gene c-fos, which may mediate longer term responses to copulation. Furthermore, increased sexual experience led to increased immunoreactivity to Fos, the protein product of c-fos, following copulation to one ejaculation. Another intracellular mediator of DA's effects, particularly in castrates, may be the phosphorylation of steroid receptors. Finally, while DA is facilitative to copulation, 5-HT is generally inhibitory. 5-HT is released in the LHA, but not in the MPOA, at the time of ejaculation. Increasing 5-HT in the LHA by microinjection of a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) increased the latency to begin copulating and also the latency to the first ejaculation, measured from the time the male first intromitted. These data may at least partially explain the decrease in libido and the anorgasmia of people taking SSRI antidepressants. One means by which LHA 5-HT decreases sexual motivation (i.e. increases the latency to begin copulating) may be by decreasing DA release in the NAcc, a major terminal of the mesolimbic system. Thus, reciprocal changes in DA and 5-HT release in different areas of the brain may promote copulation and sexual satiety, respectively.
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