Embryonic sex steroids affect mating behavior and plasma LH in adult chickens

N. Sayag, N. Snapir, B. Robinzon, E. Arnon, M. E.El Halawani, V. E. Grimm

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


Chicken embryos of both sexes were treated with either antiestrogen (tamoxifen=T), antiandrogen (flutamide=F), aromatization inhibitor (ATD=A), estradil (E), or oil (control=C). Before puberty, some males of each group were castrated. At puberty, birds were tested under the following regimes: castrated males injected daily with testosterone propionate (CAS+TP) or estradiol benzoate (CAS+EB), intact males (M-INT), intact females (F-INT), and females injected daily with TP (F-TP). In the M-INT and CAS+TP males, E treatment suppressed masculine mating behavior. The embryonic treatments with T, F, and A demasculinized only the frequency of copulations. None of the antihormone treatments caused any masculinization of the sexual activity in the F-TP birds. Untreated males had higher plasma LH than females. The embryonic treatment with E reduced (feminized) the LH levels in CAS+EB birds. This effect was less pronounced in M-INT birds. The results suggest that in chickens, estradiol plays a role in the masculinization of copulatory behavior potential in the developing male embryo. High embryonic estradiol reduces the potential for displaying male sexual behavior at puberty. Feminization of LH secretion requires a high level of estradiol in both embryonic and adult life.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1107-1112
Number of pages6
JournalPhysiology and Behavior
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 1989


  • ATD
  • Chickens
  • Embryo
  • Flutamide
  • Gonadal steroids
  • Masculinization
  • Plasma LH
  • Sexual behavior
  • Tamoxifen


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