We tested the role of sex chromosome complement and gonadal hormones in sex differences in several different paradigms measuring nociception and opioid analgesia using “four core genotypes” C57BL/6J mice. The genotypes include XX and XY gonadal males, and XX and XY gonadal females. Adult mice were gonadectomized and tested 3–4 weeks later, so that differences between sexes (mice with testes vs. ovaries) were attributable mainly to organizational effects of gonadal hormones, whereas differences between XX and XY mice were attributable to their complement of sex chromosomes. In experiment 1 (hotplate test of acute morphine analgesia), XX mice of both gonadal sexes had significantly shorter hotplate baseline latencies prior to morphine than XY mice. In experiment 2, (test of development of tolerance to morphine), mice were injected twice daily with 10mg/kg morphine or saline for 6 days. Saline or the competitive NMDA antagonist CPP [3-]2-carboxypiperazin-4yl)propyl-1-phospionic acid] (10mg/kg) was co-injected. On day 7, mice were tested for hotplate latencies before and after administration of a challenge dose of morphine (10mg/kg). XX mice showed shorter hotplate latencies than XY mice at baseline, and the XX-XY difference was greater following morphine. In experiment 3, mice were injected with morphine (10mg/Kg) or saline,15 minutes before intraplantar injection of formalin (5%/25µl). XX mice licked their hindpaw more than XY mice within 5 minutes of formalin injection. The results indicate that X- or Y-linked genes have direct effects, not mediated by gonadal secretions, on sex differences in two different types of acute nociception.
X chromosome; Y chromosome; pain; sex difference; hotplate; sex chromosomes
Differences between men and women in alcohol abuse prevalence have long been attributed to social and hormonal factors. It is, however, becoming apparent that sex differences in substance dependence are also influenced by genetic factors. Using a four core genotype mouse model that enables dissociation of chromosomal and gonadal sex, we show that habitual responding for alcohol reinforcement is mediated by sex chromosome complement independent of gonadal phenotype. After moderate instrumental training, chromosomal male (XY) mice became insensitive to outcome devaluation, indicating habitual responding. Chromosomal female (XX) mice remained sensitive to outcome devaluation, signifying goal-directed behavior. There was no effect of gonadal phenotype on habitual responding. Conversely, alcohol drinking was predicted by gonadal phenotype independent of sex chromosome complement. These results indicate that different alcoholism-related behaviors are determined independently by gonadal and chromosomal sex.
Habit; sex differences; alcohol use and dependence
Both coxsackievirus B3 (CVB3) and influenza A virus (IAV; H1N1) produce sexually dimorphic infections in C57BL/6 mice. Gonadal steroids can modulate sex differences in response to both viruses. Here, the effect of sex chromosomal complement in response to viral infection was evaluated using four core genotypes (FCG) mice, where the Sry gene is deleted from the Y chromosome, and in some mice is inserted into an autosomal chromosome. This results in four genotypes: XX or XY gonadal females (XXF and XYF), and XX or XY gonadal males (XXM and XYM). The FCG model permits evaluation of the impact of the sex chromosome complement independent of the gonadal phenotype.
Wild-type (WT) male and female C57BL/6 mice were assigned to remain intact or be gonadectomized (Gdx) and all FCG mice on a C57BL/6 background were Gdx. Mice were infected with either CVB3 or mouse-adapted IAV, A/Puerto Rico/8/1934 (PR8), and monitored for changes in immunity, virus titers, morbidity, or mortality.
In CVB3 infection, mortality was increased in WT males compared to females and males developed more severe cardiac inflammation. Gonadectomy suppressed male, but increased female, susceptibility to CVB3. Infection with IAV resulted in greater morbidity and mortality in WT females compared with males and this sex difference was significantly reduced by gonadectomy of male and female mice. In Gdx FCG mice infected with CVB3, XY mice were less susceptible than XX mice. Protection correlated with increased CD4+ forkhead box P3 (FoxP3)+ T regulatory (Treg) cell activation in these animals. Neither CD4+ interferon (IFN)γ (T helper 1 (Th1)) nor CD4+ interleukin (IL)-4+ (Th2) responses differed among the FCG mice during CVB3 infection. Infection of Gdx FCG mice revealed no effect of sex chromosome complement on morbidity or mortality following IAV infection.
These studies indicate that sex chromosome complement can influence pathogenicity of some, but not all, viruses.
The “four core genotypes” (FCG) model comprises mice in which sex chromosome complement (XX vs. XY) is unrelated to the animal's gonadal sex. The four genotypes are XX gonadal males or females, and XY gonadal males or females. The model allows one to measure (1) the differences in phenotypes caused by sex chromosome complement (XX vs. XY), (2) the differential effects of ovarian and testicular secretions, and (3) the interactive effects of (1) and (2). Thus, the FCG model provides new information regarding the origins of sex differences in phenotype that has not been available from studies that manipulate gonadal hormone levels in normal XY males and XX females. Studies of the FCG model have uncovered XX vs. XY differences in behaviors (aggression, parenting, habit formation, nociception, social interactions), gene expression (septal vasopressin), and susceptibility to disease (neural tube closure and autoimmune disease) not mediated by gonadal hormones. Some sex chromosome effects are mediated by sex differences in dose of X genes or their parental imprint. Future studies will identify the genes involved and their mechanisms of action.
Sex chromosome; X chromosome; Y chromosome; Sex differences; Sexual differentiation; Nociception; Neural tube closure; Autoimmune disease; Addiction
Sex differences in mean arterial pressure (MAP) are reported in many experimental models of hypertension and are ascribed to gonadal sex based of studies showing gonadectomy and gonadal hormone replacement affect MAP. The interpretation of these studies, however, has been confounded by differences in the sex chromosome complement (XX vs. XY). To investigate the sex chromosome complement independently of gonadal sex, we used the four core genotype (FCG) mouse model in which gonadal sex is separated from the sex chromosome complement enabling comparisons among XX and XY females and XX and XY males. We found that in the gonadectomized (GDX) FCG, MAP after 2 weeks of angiotensin II (Ang II) infusion (200 ng/kg/min) was greater in XX than XY [MAP (mm Hg): GDX-XX-Female, 148±4.5; GDX-XY-Female, 133±4.4; GDX-XX-Male, 149±9.4; GDX-XY-Male, 138±5.5; p<0.03, XX vs XY; n=8-9/grp]. In contrast, no sex chromosome effects (SCE) were found on heart rate (HR) body weight (BW) or plasma Ang II 2 weeks after Ang II infusion. This study suggests that in addition to effects of gonadal hormones on blood pressure, X- or Y-linked genes, parental imprinting or X mosaicism contribute to sex differences in hypertension. Furthermore, the finding that MAP was greater in XX mice compared to XY mice in the GDX state suggests adverse SCE encoded within the XX sex chromosome complement could contribute to hypertension in women with ovarian hormone deficiency such as postmenopausal women and women with premature ovarian failure.
hypertension; angiotensin II; sex differences; sex chromosomes; four core genotype
Sex differences in behavior can be attributed to differences in steroid hormones. Sex chromosome complement can also influence behavior, independent of gonadal differentiation. The mice used for this work combined a spontaneous mutation of the Sry gene with a transgene for Sry that is incorporated into an autosome thus disassociating gonad differentiation from sex chromosome complement. The resulting genotypes are XX and XY− females (ovary-bearing) along with XXSry and XY−Sry males (testes-bearing). Here we report results of basic behavioral phenotyping conducted with these mice. Motor coordination, use of olfactory cues to find a food item, general activity, foot shock threshold, and behavior in an elevated plus maze were not affected by gonadal sex or sex chromosome complement. In a one-way active avoidance learning task females were faster to escape an electric shock than males. In addition, sex chromosome complement differences were noted during social interactions with submissive intruders. Female XY− mice were faster to follow an intruder than XX female mice. All XY− mice spent more time sniffing and grooming the intruder than the XX mice, with XY− females spending the most amount of time in this activity. Finally, XX females were faster to display an asocial behavior, digging, and engaged in more digging than XXSry male mice. All of these behaviors were tested in gonadectomized adults, thus, differences in circulating levels of gonadal steroids cannot account for these effects. Taken together, these data show that sex chromosome complement affects social interaction style in mice.
Affective disorders; Autism; Depression; Anxiety; Sexual differentiation; X inactivation; Cognition; Pain
XX and XY cells have a different number of X and Y genes. These differences in their genomes cause sex differences in the functions of cells, both in the gonads and in non-gonadal tissues. This review discusses mouse models that have shed light on these direct genetic effects of sex chromosomes that cause sex differences in physiology. Because many sex differences in tissues are caused by different effects of male and female gonadal hormones, it is important to attempt to discriminate between direct genetic and hormonal effects. Numerous mouse models exist in which the number of X or Y genes is manipulated, to observe the effects on phenotype. In two models, the Afour core genotypes@ model and SF1 knockout gonadless mice, it has been possible to detect sex chromosome effects that are not explained by group differences in gonadal hormones. Moreover, mouse models are available to determine whether the sex chromosome effects are caused by X or Y genes.
Gonadal hormones contribute to ischemic neuroprotection, but cannot fully explain the observed sexual dimorphism in stroke outcomes seen during life stages with low sex steroid hormones. Sex chromosomal complement (XX in females; XY in males) may also contribute to ischemic sexual dimorphism. A transient middle cerebral artery occlusion model was used to investigate the role of X chromosome dosage in female XX and XO littermates of two mouse strains (Paf and EdaTa). Cohorts of XX and XO gonadally intact, ovariectomized, and ovariectomized females supplemented with estrogen were examined. Infarct sizes were equivalent between ovariectomized XX and XO mice, between intact XX and XO mice, and between estrogen-supplemented ovariectomized XX and XO mice. This is the first study to investigate the role of sex chromosome dosage in the response to cerebral ischemia. Neither the number of X chromosomes, nor the parent of origin of the remaining X chromosome, had a significant effect on the degree of cerebral infarction after experimental stroke in adult female mice. Estrogen was protective against cerebral ischemia in both XX and XO mice.
Though stress causes complex sleep disruptions that are different in females and males, little is known about how sex influences the ability of stress to alter sleep. To date there have been no comprehensive examinations of whether effects of stress on sleep are sensitive to determinants of sex, such as reproductive hormones. Since restraint stress produces a sexually dimorphic increase in rapid eye movement sleep (REMS) amount in mice that is greater in males than females, in the current study we sought to determine whether estrogens and androgens influence the ability of restraint stress to alter sleep states. We removed the gonads from adult female and male C57BL/6J mice and implanted the mice with recording electrodes to monitor sleep-wake states. Gonadectomized females and males exhibited similar amounts of REMS in response to restraint stress. Mice were then implanted with continuous release hormone pellets. Females received 17β-estradiol and males received testosterone. Hormone replacement (HR) in females decreased the REMS response to restraint stress while HR in males increased the REMS response to restraint stress. The combined effects of HR in females and males restored the sex difference in the ability of restraint stress to alter REMS. These results demonstrate that sex differences in the effects of stress on REMS are dependent on reproductive hormones and support the view that endogenous or exogenous changes in the reproductive hormone environment influence sleep responses to stress.
gender; sex; restraint; estrogen; androgen
The mammalian gonad arises as a bipotential primordium from which a testis or ovary develops depending on the chromosomal sex of the individual. We have previously used DNA microarrays to screen for novel genes controlling the developmental fate of the indifferent embryonic mouse gonad. Maestro (Mro), which encodes a HEAT-repeat protein, was originally identified as a gene exhibiting sexually dimorphic expression during mouse gonad development. Wholemount in situ hybridisation analysis revealed Mro to be expressed in the embryonic male gonad from approximately 11.5 days post coitum, prior to overt sexual differentiation. No significant expression was detected in female gonads at the same developmental stage. In order to address its physiological function, we have generated mice lacking Maestro using gene targeting. Male and female mice homozygous for a Mro null allele are viable and fertile. We examined gonad development in homozygous male embryos in detail and observed no differences when compared to wild-type controls. Immunohistochemical analysis of homozygous mutant testes of adult mice revealed no overt abnormalities. Expression profiling using DNA microarrays also indicated no significant differences between homozygote embryonic male gonads and controls. We conclude that Maestro is dispensable for normal male sexual development and fertility in laboratory mice; however, the Mro locus itself does have utility as a site for insertion of transgenes for future studies in the fields of sexual development and Sertoli cell function.
In animal studies of nociception, females are often more sensitive to painful stimuli, whereas males are often more sensitive to analgesia induced by μ agonists. Sex differences are found even at birth, and in adulthood are likely caused, at least in part, by differences in levels of gonadal hormones. Here we investigate nociception and analgesia in neonatal mice, and assess the contribution of the direct action of sex chromosome genes in hotplate and tail withdrawal tests. We used the four core genotypes mouse model, in which gonadal sex is independent of the complement of sex chromosomes (XX vs. XY). Mice were tested at baseline and then injected with μ-opioid agonist morphine (10mg/kg), or with the κ-opioid agonist U50,488H (U50, 12.5mg/Kg) with or without the N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) receptor antagonist, MK-801 (0.1mg/kg). On the day of birth, XX mice showed faster baseline latencies than XY in tail withdrawal, irrespective of their gonadal type. Gonadal males showed greater effects of morphine than gonadal females in the hotplate test, irrespective of their sex chromosome complement. U50 and morphine were both effective analgesics in both tests, but MK-801 did not block the U50 effect. The results suggest that sex chromosome complement and gonadal secretions both contribute to sex differences in nociception and analgesia by the day of birth.
Perspective: Sex differences in pain may stem not only from the action of gonadal hormones on pain circuits, but from the sex-specific action of X and Y genes. Identification of sex chromosome genes causing sex differences could contribute to better pain therapy in females and males.
pain; sex difference; hotplate; tail withdrawal; sex chromosomes; neonate
In mammals, sex differences are evident in many aspects of brain development, brain function and behaviour. Ultimately, such differences must arise from the differential sex chromosome complements in males and females: males inherit a single X chromosome and a Y chromosome, whilst females inherit two X chromosomes. One possible mechanism for sexual differentiation of the brain is via male-limited expression of genes on the small Y chromosome. Many Y-linked genes have been implicated in the development of the testes, and therefore could theoretically contribute to sexual differentiation of the brain indirectly, through influencing gonadal hormone production. Alternatively, Y-linked genes that are expressed in the brain could directly influence neural masculinisation. The present paper reviews evidence from human genetic studies and animal models for Y-linked effects (both direct and indirect) on neurodevelopment, brain function and behaviour. Besides enhancing our knowledge of the mechanisms underlying mammalian neural sexual differentiation, studies geared towards understanding the role of the Y chromosome in brain function will help to elucidate the molecular basis of sex-biased neuropsychiatric disorders, allowing for more selective sex-specific therapies.
The study was undertaken to further elucidate a role of gonadal hormones in maintenance of
normal thymocyte maturation and sexual dimorphism in the intrathymic T-cell development.
Rats of both sexes were gonadectomized or sham-gonadectomized (controls) at age of 2 and 6
months, and 30 days later the thymus size, cellularity and thymocyte composition were evaluated.
In both control and gonadectomized rats, in spite of age, sexual dimorphism in the thymus
size and cellularity was found. Gonadectomy in 2-month-old rats of both sexes increased
the thymus cellularity, volumes of both cortex and medulla and thymus size (to a less extent
in males), while in 6-month-old rats, in this respect, it was effective only in females. In ovariectomized
(OVX) rats the increase in volume of cortex was more marked in younger rats,
while that of medulla did not differ between rats of different age. It seems obvious that in both
groups of OVX rats the volume of medullary non-lymphoid component was enlarged (the
increase in medullary volume was more pronounced than that in its cellularity). Unlikely, in
rats orchidectomized (ORX) at age of 2 months the volume of this component was either
decreased or unaltered (the increase in the volume of medulla was less conspicuous than that
in the number of medullary thymocytes). In control and gonadectomized rats of both ages,
sexual dimorphism in the composition of thymocyte subsets was also observed. Gonadectomy
in 2-month-old rats affected distinct stages of thymocyte maturation in male (increased the relative proportions of CD4+8+TCRαβlow cells and their CD4–8+TCRαβlow precursors
and decreased those of the most mature CD4+8-TCRαβhigh and CD4–8+TCRαβhigh cells)
and female rats (decreased only the percentage of the least mature CD4–8-TCRαβ-cells). In
older rats only ovariectomy had impact on the relative proportion of thymocytes decreasing,
besides the relative proportion of CD4–8-TCRαβ- cells, those of CD4–8+TCRαβ-, CD4–8+TCRαβlow, positively selected CD4+8+TCRαβhigh and the most mature CD4+8-TCRαβhigh, CD4–8+TCRαβhigh cells and exerting an opposite effect on the percentages of
CD4+8+TCRαβ- and CD4+8+TCRαβlow cells. Thus, results showed sex- and age-dependent
changes in sensitivity of both the developing thymocytes and non-lymphoid cells to long-lasting
adult rats; thymus size; thymus cellularity; thymocyte maturation; gonadectomy; sexual dimorphism
Sex hormones are a major factor responsible for the development of sex differences. Steroidogenic factor 1 (SF-1) is a key regulator of gonadal and adrenal development, and SF-1 knockout mice (SF-1 KO) are born without gonads and adrenal glands. Consequently, these mice are not exposed to gonadal sex steroids. SF-1 KO pups die shortly after birth due to adrenal deficiency. In the present study, SF-1 KO mice were rescued by neonatal corticosteroid injections followed by adrenal transplantations on day 7–8 postnatally. Control mice received corticosteroid injections and were gonadectomized prior to puberty. Mice were observed interacting with ovariectomized hormone primed females and gonad-intact males. In the absence of sex steroid replacement, adult SF-1 KO mice were significantly more aggressive than control mice in tests with stimulus females. After testosterone treatment, control males displayed significantly more aggression towards male intruders than control female mice, or male and female SF-1 KO mice, suggesting a developmental role of gonadal hormones in the expression of aggressive behavior and affirming SF-1 KO mice as a behavioral model to investigate affects of fetal gonad deficiency.
sexual differentiation; VMH; steroidogenic factor 1; sex steroids; aggression
The 20th century theory of mammalian sex determination states that the embryo is sexually indifferent until the differentiation of gonads, after which sex differences in phenotype are caused by differential effects of gonadal hormones. That theory is inadequate because some sex differences precede differentiation of the gonads and/or are determined by non-gonadal effects of the sexual inequality in number and type of sex chromosomes. A general theory of sex determination is proposed, which recognizes multiple parallel primary sex-determining pathways initiated by genes or factors encoded by the sex chromosomes. The separate sex-specific pathways interact to synergize with or antagonize each other, enhancing or reducing sex differences in phenotype.
The categorization of individuals as “male” or “female” is based on chromosome complement and gonadal and genital phenotype. This combined genetic-gonadal-genitals sex, here referred to as 3G-sex, is internally consistent in ~99% of humans (i.e., one has either the “female” form at all levels, or the “male” form at all levels). About 1% of the human population is identified as “intersex” because of either having an intermediate form at one or more levels, or having the “male” form at some levels and the “female” form at other levels. These two types of “intersex” reflect the facts, respectively, that the different levels of 3G-sex are not completely dimorphic nor perfectly consistent. Using 3G-sex as a model to understand sex differences in other domains (e.g., brain, behavior) leads to the erroneous assumption that sex differences in these other domains are also highly dimorphic and highly consistent. But parallel lines of research have led to the conclusion that sex differences in the brain and in behavior, cognition, personality, and other gender characteristics are for the most part not dimorphic and not internally consistent (i.e., having one brain/gender characteristic with the “male” form is not a reliable predictor for the form of other brain/gender characteristics). Therefore although only ~1% percent of humans are 3G-“intersex”, when it comes to brain and gender, we all have an intersex gender (i.e., an array of masculine and feminine traits) and an intersex brain (a mosaic of “male” and “female” brain characteristics).
Sex differences; Gender differences; Male brain; Female brain; Intersex
We asked whether odor discrimination abilities are sexually dimorphic in mice and, if so, whether the perinatal actions of estradiol contribute to these sex differences. The ability to discriminate different types of urinary odors was compared in male and female wild-type (WT) subjects and in mice with a homozygous-null mutation of the estrogen synthetic enzyme, aromatase (aromatase knockout; ArKO). Olfactory discrimination was assessed in WT and ArKO male and female mice after they were gonadectomized in adulthood and subsequently treated with estradiol benzoate. A liquid olfactometer was used to assess food-motivated olfactory discrimination capacity. All animals eventually learned to distinguish between urinary odors collected from gonadally intact males and estrous females; however, WT males as well as ArKO mice of both sexes learned this discrimination significantly more rapidly than WT females. Similar group differences were obtained when mice discriminated between urinary odors collected from gonadally intact vs. castrated males or between two non-social odorants, amyl and butyl acetate. When subjects had to discriminate volatile urinary odors from ovariectomized female mice treated with estradiol sequenced with progesterone versus estradiol alone, ArKO females quickly acquired the task whereas WT males and females as well as ArKO males failed to do so. These results demonstrated a strong sex dimorphism in olfactory discrimination ability, with WT males performing better than females. Furthermore, female ArKO mice showed an enhanced ability to discriminate very similar urinary odorants, perhaps due to an increased sensitivity of the main olfactory nervous system to adult estradiol treatment as a result of perinatal estrogen deprivation.
Estrogens; Sex differences; Olfaction; Odor discrimination; Learning
Sex differences in Parkinson's disease (PD) have been reported in humans and rodent models, with a higher incidence in men and increased severity in male rodents. The current study examined sex differences and the effects of gonadal steroid hormones in the 1-methyl-4-phenyl-1,2,3,6-tetrahydropyridine (MPTP)-lesioned mouse model of PD. Male (n=51) and female (n=50) mice were gonadectomized and received physiologic replacement with testosterone or estrogen (Experiment 1), or no hormones (Experiment 2). Two weeks later, mice received either MPTP (10mg/kg per day for 5 days) or saline. Higher doses killed female mice. Mice were tested one week after MPTP for motor performance using rotarod, pole and gait tests. In hormone-treated mice, males significantly outperformed females in all three tests (p<0.05). Compared with females, males had a greater overall rotarod performance (ORP: 1317.1±98.3 vs. 988.1±95.6), descended a pole faster (7.1±0.6 vs. 9.6±0.7 sec), and had longer stride lengths (hindlimb 7.3±0.1 vs. 6.8±0.1 cm). By contrast, ovariectomized female mice receiving saline outperformed castrated males on the rotarod (1296.6±83.3 vs. 811.2±113.7, p<0.05) and descended a pole faster (9.7±2.0 vs. 15.6±1.9 sec, p<0.05). MPTP significantly impaired ORP (p<0.05) in hormone-treated males (703.7±65.5) and females (432.8±88.6, p<0.05). After MPTP, stride length was selectively decreased in males (hindlimb 6.6±0.1 cm, p<0.05), and pole test performance was unimpaired in either sex. After gonadectomy, MPTP did not decrease motor performance in males (p>0.05) but significantly reduced ORP in females (975.9±110.3 vs. saline females, p<0.05). Our results show that small, chronic doses of MPTP produce subtle, sexually-dimorphic impairments in motor performance, but without a loss of tyrosine hydroxylase-positive neurons in the substantia nigra. In gonadectomized mice, this sex difference is reversed.
Parkinson's disease; striatum; substantia nigra; 1-methyl-4-phenyl-1,2,3,6-tetrahydropyridine; motor behavior; sex characteristics testosterone, estrogen
Differentiation of the brain during development leads to sexually dimorphic adult reproductive behavior and other neural sex dimorphisms. Genetic mechanisms independent of steroid hormones produced by the gonads have recently been suggested to partly explain these dimorphisms.
Using cDNA microarrays and real-time PCR we found gene expression differences between the male and female embryonic brain (or whole head) that may be independent of morphological differentiation of the gonads. Genes located on the sex chromosomes (ZZ in males and ZW in females) were common among the differentially expressed genes, several of which (WPKCI-8, HINT, MHM non-coding RNA) have previously been implicated in avian sex determination. A majority of the identified genes were more highly expressed in males. Three of these genes (CDK7, CCNH and BTF2-P44) encode subunits of the transcription factor IIH complex, indicating a role for this complex in neuronal differentiation.
In conclusion, this study provides novel insights into sexually dimorphic gene expression in the embryonic chicken brain and its possible involvement in sex differentiation of the nervous system in birds.
Previous studies suggest that sex differences in morphine antinociception in rodents might be attributed to the activational effects of gonadal hormones. The present study determined whether hormonal modulation of opioid antinociception in adult rats extends to opioids other than the prototypic mu agonist morphine. Male and female rats were sham-gonadectomized (sham-GDX) or gonadectomized (GDX) and replaced with no hormone, estradiol (E2, females), progesterone (P4, females), E2+P4 (females), or testosterone (males). Approximately 28 days later, nociception was evaluated on the 50°C hot plate and warm water tail withdrawal tests before and after subcutaneous administration of hydromorphone, buprenorphine, U50,488, or SNC 80. In sham-GDX (gonadally intact) rats, the mu agonists and U50,488 were less effective in females than in males in at least one nociceptive test, and the delta agonist SNC 80 was less effective in males than in females. In males, gonadectomy tended to decrease, and testosterone tended to increase antinociception produced by 3 of the 4 agonists. In females, gonadectomy and hormone treatment had more variable effects, although E2 tended to decrease mu opioid antinociception. The present results suggest that activational effects of gonadal hormones are relatively modest and somewhat inconsistent on antinociception produced by various opioid agonists in the adult rat.
Perspective: This study demonstrates that reproductive hormones such as testosterone in males and estradiol in females do not consistently modulate sensitivity to the analgesic effects of opioids in the adult organism.
Testosterone; estradiol; progesterone; pain; analgesia; sex differences
Most neurobehavioral diseases are sexually dimorphic in their incidence, and sex differences in the brain may be key for understanding and treating these diseases. Calbindin (Calb) D28K is used as a biomarker for the well-studied sexually dimorphic nucleus, a hypothalamic structure that is larger in males than in females. In the current study weanling C56BL/6J mice were used to examine sex differences in the Calb protein and message focusing on regions outside of the hypothalamus. A robust sex difference was found in Calb in the frontal cortex (FC) and cerebellum (CB; specifically in Purkinje cells); mRNA and protein were higher in females than in males. Using 2 mouse lines, i.e. one with a complete deletion of estrogen receptor alpha (ERα) and the other with uncoupled gonads and sex chromosomes, we probed the mechanisms that underlie sexual dimorphisms. In the FC, deletion of ERα reduced Calb1 mRNA in females compared to males. In addition, females with XY sex chromosomes had levels of Calb1 equal to those of males. Thus, both ERα and the sex chromosome complement regulate Calb1 in the FC. In the CB, ERα knockout mice of both sexes had reduced Calb1 mRNA, yet sex differences were retained. However, the sex chromosome complement, regardless of gonadal sex, dictated Calb1 mRNA levels. Mice with XX chromosomes had significantly greater Calb1 than did XY mice. This is the first study demonstrating that sex chromosome genes are a driving force producing sex differences in the CB and FC, which are neuoranatomical regions involved in many normal functions and in neurobehavioral diseases.
Autism; X inactivation; Sex differences; Calbindin; Fragile X
Play behavior in juvenile primates, rats, and other species is sexually dimorphic, with males demonstrating more play than females. In mice, sex differences in juvenile play have only been examined in out-bred CD-1 mice. In this strain, contrary to other animals, male mice display less play soliciting than females. Using an established same-sex dyadic interaction test, we examined play in inbred C57BL/6J (B6) 21 day-old mice. When paired with non-siblings, males tended to be more social than females, spending more time exploring the test cage. Females displayed significantly more anogenital sniffing and solicited play more frequently than did males. To determine if the origin of the sex difference was sex chromosome genes or gonadal sex, next we used the four core genotype (FCG) mouse. We found significant interactions between gonadal sex and genotype for several behaviors. Finally, we asked if sibling pairs (as compared to non-siblings) would display qualitative or quantitatively different behavior. In fact, XX females paired with a sibling were more social and less exploratory or investigative, while XY males exhibited less investigative and play soliciting behaviors in tests with siblings. Many neurobehavioral disorders, like autism spectrum disorder (ASD), are sexually dimorphic in incidence and patients interact less than normal with other children. Our results suggest that sex chromosome genes interact with gonadal hormones to shape the development of juvenile social behavior, and that social context can drastically alter sex differences. These data may have relevance for understanding the etiology of sexually dimorphic disorders such as ASD.
Juvenile; adolescent; Social Behavior; Play; Sex Chromosomes; Autism
In the current model of vertebrate sex determination and sexual differentiation, gonadal sex is fixed at fertilization by specific chromosomes, a process known as genotypic sex determination (GSD). Only after the gonad is formed do hormones begin to exert an influence that modifies specific structures that eventually will differ the sexes. Many egg-laying reptiles do not exhibit GSD but rather depend on the temperature of the incubating egg to determine the gonadal sex of the offspring, a process termed temperature-dependent sex determination (TSD). Research on TSD indicates that sex determination in these species is fundamentally different in at least one way. Gonadal sex is not irrevocably set by the genetic composition inherited at fertilization but depends ultimately on which genes encoding for steroidogenic enzymes and hormone receptors are activated during the midtrimester of embryonic development by temperature. Incubation temperature modifies the activity as well as the temporal and spatial sequence of enzymes and hormone receptors such that sex-specific hormone milieus, created in the urogenital system of the developing embryo, determine gonad type. Estrogen is the physiologic equivalent of incubation temperature and the proximate cue that initiates female sex determination. There is increasing evidence that some polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB) compounds are capable of disrupting reproductive and endocrine function in fish, birds, and mammals, including humans. Reproductive disorders resulting from exposure to these xenobiotic compounds may include reductions in fertility, hatch rate in fish and birds, and viability of offspring, as well as alterations in hormone levels or adult sexual behaviors, all of which have further implications, particularly in wildlife population dynamics. Research on the mechanism through which these compounds may be acting to alter reproductive function indicates estrogenic activity, by which the compounds may be altering sexual differentiation. In TSD turtles, the estrogenic effect of some PCBs reverses gonadal sex in individuals incubating at an otherwise male-producing temperature. Furthermore, certain PCBs are synergistic in their effect at very low concentrations.
In the twentieth century, the dominant model of sexual differentiation stated that genetic sex (XX versus XY) causes differentiation of the gonads, which then secrete gonadal hormones that act directly on tissues to induce sex differences in function. This serial model of sexual differentiation was simple, unifying and seductive. Recent evidence, however, indicates that the linear model is incorrect and that sex differences arise in response to diverse sex-specific signals originating from inherent differences in the genome and involve cellular mechanisms that are specific to individual tissues or brain regions. Moreover, sex-specific effects of the environment reciprocally affect biology, sometimes profoundly, and must therefore be integrated into a realistic model of sexual differentiation. A more appropriate model is a parallel-interactive model that encompasses the roles of multiple molecular signals and pathways that differentiate males and females, including synergistic and compensatory interactions among pathways and an important role for the environment.
The vasculoprotective effects of sex hormones, particularly estrogens, have been attributed to their ability to increase the bioavailability of nitric oxide through activation of endothelial nitric oxide synthase (eNOS). To dissect the relative contribution in vivo of eNOS, sex hormones, and their interaction in two complex vascular phenotypes, hypertension and atherosclerosis, we used mice doubly deficient in eNOS and apoE (nnee) or lacking only apoE (NNee). Females and males were gonadectomized at 1 month of age and implanted either with control pellets or pellets releasing 17β-estradiol (E2). Hormonally intact nnee mice have elevated blood pressure (BP) and increased atherosclerosis compared with NNee mice, but on removal of gonads, BP and atherosclerosis decreased significantly in nnee mice but not in NNee mice. Three months of treatment with exogenous E2 dramatically reduced atherosclerosis and significantly lowered BP in both NNee and nnee mice compared with animals treated with control pellets. Thus exogenous E2 has strong BP-lowering and atheroprotective effects in apoE-deficient mice, but eNOS is not essential for either effect. Endogenous sex hormones, on the other hand, cause significant damage to the vasculature in the absence of eNOS, but these effects are overridden by interactions between eNOS and sex hormones.