Hormones and behavior

Prenatal flutamide treatment eliminates the adult male rat's dependency upon vasopressin when forming social-olfactory memories.

PMID 10506535


The sexually dimorphic number of cells expressing arginine vasopressin (AVP) in the bed nucleus of the stria terminalis and the density of AVP fibers within the lateral septum appear to be organized by pre- and postnatal androgens. Social recognition behaviors are also sexually dimorphic and AVP-dependent. Whereas AVP antagonists prevent males from recognizing familiar intruders by olfactory investigation of the anal-genital area, they have no effect in females. To test the hypothesis that the male's dependency upon AVP to form social recognition memories begins prior to birth, we compared the effectiveness of an AVP antagonist to block social recognition in control males and females with that seen in male offspring whose mothers were treated prenatally with an androgen antagonist (flutamide). In an initial study we showed that while sexual experience may enhance social recognition in males, virgin males exhibit the ability to recognize conspecifics and are sensitive to the memory blocking actions of AVP antagonists. In a second experiment, pregnant rats were treated daily for the last 10 days of gestation with either flutamide (10 mg) or control vehicle. Within 12 h of birth, male offspring from flutamide litters were injected with either testosterone proprionate (50 microg TP) or vehicle control. AVP-antagonist treatment in adults eliminated the ability of control males to recognize familiar juvenile intruders, but had no effect on males exposed prenatally to flutamide, regardless of whether these males were treated with TP or vehicle on day 1 of life. These data support the hypothesis that the development of the male's dependency upon AVP to express social recognition memories begins with the organizational actions of prenatal androgens.

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