Evidence for a non-genomic action of progestins on sexual receptivity in hamster ventral tegmental area but not hypothalamus

C. A. Frye, P. G. Mermelstein, J. F. DeBold

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Progestogenic stimulation of both the ventromedial nucleus of the hypothalamus (VMH) and the ventral tegmental area (VTA) is critical for normal receptivity in estrogen-primed hamsters. However, anatomical and biochemical studies have identified very few estrogen-induced progestin receptors in the rodent ventral midbrain. To determine whether progesterone might be working on the membrane of neurons in the VTA, progesterone 3-CMO BSA (P-3-BSA) was applied intracranially. The size of P-3-BSA makes it relatively impermeable to the cell membrane. Ovariectomized hamsters were implanted with 2 chronic cannulae, one aimed at the VMH and the other at the contralateral VTA. These animals were then estrogen-primed and tested for sexual receptivity after progesterone-containing tubes were inserted just dorsal to the VMH and P-3-BSA inserts were applied above the VTA. The following week, the hamsters were tested again with the contents of the inserts reversed. Animals with progestogenic stimulation to the VMH and P-3-BSA to the VTA were receptive yet those with P-3-BSA to the hypothalamus and progesterone to the VTA were not receptive. These data suggest that progesterone is capable of facilitating sexual receptivity within the VTA by actions on the cell membrane. The non-genomic effects in the VTA require concurrent genomic activation by progesterone within the hypothalamus.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)87-93
Number of pages7
JournalBrain Research
Issue number1-2
StatePublished - Apr 24 1992


  • Hypothalamus
  • Lordosis
  • Membrane
  • Sexual behavior
  • Steroid
  • Ventral tegmental area


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