Differential hormonal control of aggression and sexual behavior in female Syrian hamsters

Robert L. Meisel, Mark R. Sterner, Mark A. Diekman

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43 Scopus citations


These experiments were designed to test the effects of chronic estradiol treatment on aggression and sexual behavior in female hamsters. Isolated female hamsters were ovariectomized and tested for their behavioral responses to a group-housed, ovariectomized female hamster (aggression test) and a group-housed, intact male hamster (sexual behavior test). Following these baseline tests, the experimental females were implanted sc with Silastic capsules containing different concentrations of estradiol (100, 25, 10, or 0%) diluted with cholesterol and retested 3, 7, 10, and 14 days after implantation. High levels of aggression were observed on the baseline test, with no changes in aggression toward an intruder female observed for any implant group on subsequent tests. Despite these high levels of aggression toward another female, most of the estradiol-treated females (80% at 14 days) were sexually responsive in the presence of a male. There was no effect of Silastic estradiol concentration on sexual behavior, even though a range of serum estradiol levels (39-105 pg/ml) resulted. Lordosis latencies decreased and lordosis durations increased over the extent of estradiol treatment. Seventeen days after Silastic implantation, all females were injected with progesterone and retested. Estradiol-treated females showed an extreme reduction in aggression toward a stimulus female, as well as a further stimulation of sexual behavior after progesterone treatment. High levels of aggression in cholesterol-treated females (0% estradiol) were maintained even after progesterone injection, and these females never displayed any sexual responsivity. These results suggest that sexual behavior in the female hamster is sensitive to estradiol alone, whereas the inhibition of aggression requires the combination of estradiol plus progesterone.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)453-466
Number of pages14
JournalHormones and Behavior
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 1988

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Portions of these experiments were reported previously at the Conference on Reproductive Behavior, Montreal, June 1986. We are grateful to Dr. Isabel Fraile for her contribution to the development of the behavioral testing procedures, and to Doris Blair for conducting the steroid assays. This research was supported by USPHS Grant HD-21478 (to R.L.M.).


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