In rats, female sexual behavior is regulated by a well defined limbic- hypothalamic circuit that integrates sensory and hormonal information. Estradiol activation of this circuit results in μ-opioid receptor (MOR) internalization in the medial preoptic nucleus, an important step for full expression of sexual receptivity. Estradiol acts through both membrane and intracellular receptors to influence neuronal activity and behavior, yet the mechanism(s) and physiological significance of estradiol-mediated membrane responses in vivo have remained elusive. Recent in vitro evidence found that stimulation of membrane-associated estrogen receptor-α (ERα) led to activation of metabotropic glutamate receptor 1a (mGluR1a). Furthermore, mGluR1a signaling was responsible for the observed downstream effects of estradiol. Here we present data that show that ERα and mGluR1a directly interact to mediate a rapid estradiol-induced activation of MOR in the medial preoptic nucleus, leading to female sexual receptivity. In addition, blockade of mGluR1a in the arcuate nucleus of the hypothalamus resulted in a significant attenuation of estradiol-induced MOR internalization, leading to diminished female sexual behavior. These results link membrane-initiated estradiol actions to neural events modulating behavior, demonstrating the physiological importance of ERα-to-mGluR1a signaling.
- Arcuate nucleus
- μ-opioid receptor internalization