The biological mechanisms behind ethanol-induced aggression are not known. Because gonadal hormones are linked both to aggression and ethanol, the present study examined relationships among the levels of serum estradiol (E2), testosterone (T), and aggressive behavior in ethanol-treated male mice. We found that among group-housed male mice, serum E2 levels were significantly elevated 30 min after a single injection of 0.6 g/kg ethanol. Serum T levels showed a nonsignificant decrease by ethanol. The E2/T ratio, an index of aromatization of T to E2, was significantly higher in the ethanol-treated animals when compared with the vehicle-treated animals. We also determined aggressive behavior in the resident-intruder test among isolated male mice at baseline (after a vehicle), and after an injection of 0.6 g/kg ethanol. The mice were grouped accordingly to those that increased, decreased, or remained nonaggressive in response to ethanol administration. We found that at baseline, neither serum T or E2 levels, nor E2/T ratio differed significantly between the increased or reduced aggressor mice. In contrast to the increase in serum E2 levels seen in the nonaggressive mice, ethanol significantly reduced circulating E2 levels, but did not affect aromatization of E2 from T in the mice that became aggressive following an ethanol injection. These data suggest that mice who exhibit a paradoxical decrease in serum E2 levels by ethanol may be particularly prone to ethanol-induced aggression.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
This work was supported in part by grants from the American Cancer Society (CN-80420: L. A. Hilakivi-Clarke), The Cancer Research Foundation of America (L. A. Hilakivi-Clarke) and Public Health Service Grant P50-CA58185 from the National Cancer Institute.