Sexual differentiation of brain function is regulated by estrogen in the perinatal period of rodents. However, the role of the estrogen receptor subtypes ERα and ERβ is still in question. Accordingly, the effects of neonatal treatment with the ERα agonist propyl pyrazole triol (PPT) or the ERβ agonist diarylpropionitrile (DPN) on female reproductive functions were investigated in rats. Female rats were injected subcutaneously with 100-500 μg/10 g body weight (b.w.) PPT or DPN, 100 μg/10 g b.w. estradiol (E 2), or saline at day 5 (birth day = day 1), and then vaginal opening and vaginal smears were examined. On day 60, their ovaries were removed and lordosis behavior was observed after subcutaneous implantation of a silicon tube containing E 2. As a result, in most PPT and all E 2 rats, vaginal opening was advanced and an irregular estrous cycle was observed. In contrast, in most rats of the DPN groups, vaginal opening was comparable to that of the control and there was a regular estrous cycle. Lordosis tests revealed that the mean lordosis quotients (LQs) in the 250- and 500-μg PPT groups was lower than in the saline group, but higher than in the E 2 group. Mean LQs in all DPN groups were comparable to those in the saline group. These results suggest that ERα plays a major role in masculinization of the system regulating the estrous cycle in the rat brain. In behavioral defeminization of the lordosis-regulation system, ERα was also found to be the main target of estrogen.
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