Prenatal hormones organize sex differences of the neuroendocrine reproductive system: Observations on guinea pigs and nonhuman primates

John A. Resko, Charles E. Roselli

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article

83 Scopus citations

Abstract

1. The central nervous systems (CNS) of males and females differ in the control mechanisms for the release of gonadotropins from the anterior pituitary gland as well as the capacity to display sex specific behaviors. 2. In guinea pigs and monkeys, these differences are organized through the actions of prenatal androgens secreted by the fetal testes. In both males and females androgen receptors have been identified within the brain during the period in development in which organization of the CNS occurs. Sex differences between the ratio of cytosolic and nuclear androgen receptors are due to the amount of endogenous androgen present in the circulation of the developing fetus. Thus, at least part of the biochemical machinery necessary for androgen action resides in the CNS during the period of sexual differentiation. 3. In addition to the physiological differences that have been observed, morphological differences that are androgen dependent have been found in the medial preoptic nucleus and the bed nucleus of the stria terminalis of the guinea pig. The location of these sex differences in brain morphology coincides roughly with the location of steroid binding neurons. 4. In some species the in situ conversion of testosterone to dihydrotestosterone (DHT) by the 5α-reductases or to estradiol-17β by cytochrome P450 aromatase mediates testosterone's action. The gonadotropin surge mechanism of adult guinea pigs exposed to a 5α-reductase inhibitor in utero during the critical period for sexual differentiation was unaffected in either males or females even though the development of the external organs of reproduction of males was feminized by the treatment. Likewise, the gonadotropin surge mechanism of subjects exposed to an aromatase inhibitor in utero during the critical period for sexual differentiation was unaffected by this treatment. 5. The mechanism controlling negative feedback, however, was affected in both males and females. Subjects that were exposed to an aromatase inhibitor while developing in utero could not respond to the negative feedback actions of estrogen on gonadotropin release in adulthood. 6. The surge mechanism for the control of gonadotropin secretion in nonhuman primates is not sexually differentiated as it is in rodents. Castrated male monkeys release surge amounts of LH in response to an estrogen challenge. Both infant and adult dimorphic behaviors of rhesus monkeys are organized by the prenatal actions of androgen.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Number of pages1
JournalCellular and Molecular Neurobiology
Volume17
Issue number6
DOIs
StatePublished - Dec 1 1997

Keywords

  • Central nervous system
  • Fetus
  • Guinea pig
  • Primate
  • Sex differences
  • Sexual differentiation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience
  • Cell Biology

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