Effects of testosterone on a selected neuronal population within the preoptic sexually dimorphic nucleus of the Japanese quail

Authors

  • Giancarlo Panzica,

    Corresponding author
    • Department Human Anatomy and Physiology, Section of Neuroanatomy and Neuroembryology, c.so M. D'Azeglio 52, I-10126 Torino, Italy
    Search for more papers by this author
  • Carla Viglietti-Panzica,

    1. Department of Human Anatomy and Physiology, Section of Neuroanatomy and Neuroembryology, I-10126 Torino, Italy
    Search for more papers by this author
  • Fernando Sanchez,

    1. Department of Human Anatomy and Histology, Faculty of Medicine, Salamanca, Spain
    Search for more papers by this author
  • Philippe Sante,

    1. Department of Human Anatomy and Physiology, Section of Neuroanatomy and Neuroembryology, I-10126 Torino, Italy
    2. Department of Laboratory of General and Comparative Biochemistry, University of Liège, Liège, Belgium
    Search for more papers by this author
  • Jacques Balthazart

    1. Department of Laboratory of General and Comparative Biochemistry, University of Liège, Liège, Belgium
    Search for more papers by this author

Abstract

The effects of testosterone on the volume and cytoarchitecture of the sexually dimorphic nucleus of the preoptic area (POM) were investigated in male and female Japanese quail. It was confirmed that castration decreases the POM volume in males and that, in gonadectomized birds of both sexes, testosterone increases this volume to values similar to those observed in intact sexually mature males. This suggests that the sex difference in POM volume results from a differential activation by T so that this brain morphological characteristic is not truly differentiated in the organizational sense. This conclusion was extended here by demonstrating that males exposed to a photoperiod simulating long days and that are known to have high plasma levels of testosterone have a larger POM than short-day males that have inactive testes. Detailed morphometric studies of POM neurons revealed a structural heterogeneity within the nucleus. A population of large neurons (cross-sectional area larger than 70–80 μm2) was well represented in the dorsolateral but was almost absent in the medial part of POM. This lateral population of neurons was sensitive to variations of testosterone levels in males but not in females. The cross-sectional area, diameter, and perimeter of the dorsolateral neurons were significantly increased in males exposed to high testosterone levels (intact birds exposed to long days or castrated birds treated with the steroid). These changes were not observed in the medial part of the nucleus. Interestingly, the size of the dorsolateral neurons was not affected by testosterone treatments in females. These results suggest that the swelling of neurons in the lateral POM of males might be responsible for the increase in total volume of the nucleus, which is observed in physiological situations associated with a high testosteronemia. In addition, the sensitivity to testosterone of the dorsolateral neurons in the POM appears to be sexually differentiated. This differential response to testosterone might represent a truly dimorphic feature in the organizational sense and additional studies manipulating the early steroid environment should be performed to test this possibility.

Ancillary