Tyrosine hydroxylase in the ventral tegmental area of rams with high or low libido—A role for dopamine

A. C. Kramer, A. J. Mirto, K. J. Austin, C. E. Roselli, B. M. Alexander

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Dopamine synthesis in the ventral tegmental area (VTA) is necessary for the reinforcement of sexual behavior. The objective of this study determined if sexual stimuli initiates reward, and whether reward is attenuated in sexually inactive rams. Sexually active rams were exposed to urine from estrous (n = 4) or ovariectomized (n = 3) ewes with inactive rams (n = 3) exposed to urine from estrous ewes. Following exposure, rams were exsanguinated and brains perfused. Alternating sections of the VTA were stained for Fos related antigens (FRA), tyrosine hydroxylase, and dopamine beta-hydroxylase activity. Forebrain tissue, mid-sagittal ventral to the anterior corpus callosum, was stained for dopamine D2 receptors. Concentrations of cortisol was determined prior to and following exposure. Exposure to ovariectomized-ewe urine in sexually active rams did not influence (P = 0.6) FRA expression, but fewer (P < 0.05) neurons were positive for tyrosine hydroxylase in the VTA. Sexually inactive rams had fewer (P < 0.05) FRA and tyrosine hydroxylase positive neurons in the VTA than sexually active rams following exposure to estrous ewe urine. VTA neurons staining positive for dopamine beta-hydroxylase did not differ by sexual activity (P = 0.44) or urine exposure (P = 0.07). Exposure to stimulus did not influence (P = 0.46) numbers of forebrain neurons staining positive for dopamine D2 receptors in sexually active rams, but fewer (P = 0.04) neurons stain positive in inactive rams. Serum concentrations of cortisol did not differ (P ≥ 0.52) among rams prior to or following stimulus. In conclusion sexual inactivity is unlikely due to stress, but may be partially a result of decreased tyrosine hydroxylase and/or the response to dopamine.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)152-158
Number of pages7
JournalAnimal Reproduction Science
StatePublished - Dec 2017


  • Rams
  • Reward pathway
  • Sexual behavior

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Food Animals
  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Endocrinology


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