Estrogen receptor-β gene disruption potentiates estrogen-inducible aggression but not sexual behavior in male mice

Laboratory of Neurobiology and Behaviour, The Rockefeller University, 1230 York Avenue, New York, NY 10021, USA.
European Journal of Neuroscience (Impact Factor: 3.18). 05/2006; 23(7):1860-8. DOI: 10.1111/j.1460-9568.2006.04703.x
Source: PubMed


Aggressive behaviour of gonadally intact male mice is increased by estrogen receptor (ER)-beta gene disruption, whereas sexual behaviour remains unchanged. The elevated aggression levels following ER-beta gene disruption is pronounced during repeated aggression tests in young animals and the first aggression test in adults. In the present study, the roles of ER-beta activation in the regulation of aggressive and sexual behaviour were investigated in gonadectomized ER-beta knockout (betaERKO) and wild-type (WT) male mice treated with various doses of estrogen. Overall, estradiol benzoate (EB) treatment induced higher levels of aggression in betaERKO mice than in WT mice. In WT mice, the levels of aggression induced by EB were highest in the lowest-dose (2.5 microg/day) group and gradually decreased in higher-dosage groups. On the other hand, equally high levels of aggressive behaviour were induced by all three doses of EB in betaERKO mice. A marked genotype difference in dose responses is inferred, such that the ER-alpha-mediated facilitatory action of estrogen is more pronounced at lower and physiological doses and the ER-beta-mediated inhibitory action is only unveiled at higher doses of estrogen. In contrast to aggression, the levels of sexual behaviour induced by EB were not different between betaERKO and WT at either dose of EB (2.5 and 12.5 microg/day) examined. These findings support the notion that ER-beta activation may exert an attenuating action on male aggression induced by estrogen through ER-alpha-mediated brain mechanisms, whereas its effect on male sexual behaviour is relatively small.

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    • "Besides the involvement with anxiety behaviors, ERβ has also been shown to be a key player in the regulation of aggressive behaviors. For example, βERKO male mice exhibit increased levels of aggression, depending on their social experience and age (Ogawa et al., 1999; Nomura et al., 2002a, 2006), suggesting that ERβ may play an inhibitory role in the regulation of male aggressive behavior. "
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    ABSTRACT: Maternal separation (MS) is an animal model mimicking the effects of early life stress on the development of emotional and social behaviors. Recent studies revealed that MS stress increased social anxiety levels in female mice and reduced peri-pubertal aggression in male mice. Estrogen receptor (ER) β plays a pivotal role in the regulation of stress responses and anxiety-related and social behaviors. Behavioral studies using ERβ knockout (βERKO) mice reported increased social investigation and decreased social anxiety in βERKO females, and elevated aggression levels in βERKO males compared to wild-type (WT) mice. In the present study, using βERKO and WT mice, we examined whether ERβ contributes to MS effects on anxiety and social behaviors. βERKO and WT mice were separated from their dam daily (4 h) from postnatal day 1-14 and control groups were left undisturbed. First, MS and ERβ gene deletion individually increased anxiety-related behaviors in the open field test, but only in female mice. Anxiety levels were not further modified in βERKO female mice subjected to MS stress. Second, βERKO female mice showed higher levels of social investigation compared with WT in the social investigation test and long-term social preference test. However, MS greatly reduced social investigation duration and elevated number of stretched approaches in WT and βERKO females in the social investigation test, suggesting elevated levels of social anxiety in both genotypes. Third, peri-pubertal and adult βERKO male mice were more aggressive than WT mice as indicated by heightened aggression duration. On the other hand, MS significantly decreased aggression duration in both genotypes, but only in peri-pubertal male mice. Altogether, these results suggest that βERKO mice are sensitive to the adverse effects of MS stress on subsequent female and male social behaviors, which could then have overrode the ERβ effects on female social anxiety and male aggression.
    Full-text · Article · Sep 2014 · Frontiers in Neuroscience
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    • "The large body of evidence of estrogenic effects on neuronal plasticity, such as long-term potentiation, spine plasticity, and neurogenesis [8], [9], [10], [11], is contrasted by only a few studies on the effects of more general states such as motivation and mood and their outcome in behavioral performance. Aggression and modulations of the stress axis activity have been reported to be affected by estrogenic mechanisms in male mice and rats [12], [13], [14]. Aggression, therefore, may be stimulated by ERα and suppressed by ERβ activation in male rats [15]. "
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    ABSTRACT: Estrogenic functions in regulating behavioral states such as motivation, mood, anxiety, and cognition are relatively well documented in female humans and animals. In males, however, although the entire enzymatic machinery for producing estradiol and the corresponding receptors are present, estrogenic functions have been largely neglected. Therefore, and as a follow-up study to previous research, we sub-chronically applied a specific estrogen receptor α (ERα) antagonist in young male rats before and during a spatial learning task (holeboard). The male rats showed a dose-dependent increase in motivational, but not cognitive, behavior. The expression of hippocampal steroid receptor genes, such as glucocorticoid (GR), mineralocorticoid (MR), androgen (AR), and the estrogen receptor ERα but not ERβ was dose-dependently reduced. The expression of the aromatase but not the brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) encoding gene was also suppressed. Reduced gene expression and increased behavioral performance converged at an antagonist concentration of 7.4 µmol. The hippocampal and blood serum hormone levels (corticosterone, testosterone, and 17β-estradiol) did not differ between the experimental groups and controls. We conclude that steroid receptors (and BDNF) act in a concerted, network-like manner to affect behavior and mutual gene expression. Therefore, the isolated view on single receptor types is probably insufficient to explain steroid effects on behavior. The steroid network may keep motivation in homeostasis by supporting and constraining the behavioral expression of motivation.
    Preview · Article · Nov 2013 · PLoS ONE
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    • "In mammals, ERα is the candidate ER for mediating the actions of estrogens (and androgens, following aromatisation) on aggression [58,59]. ERβ instead may inhibit aggression [60]. Upstream in this pathway, gnrh3 (the protein product of which stimulates sex steroid production) had 2.2-2.4-fold "
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    ABSTRACT: Aggression is a near-universal behaviour with substantial influence on and implications for human and animal social systems. The neurophysiological basis of aggression is, however, poorly understood in all species and approaches adopted to study this complex behaviour have often been oversimplified. We applied targeted expression profiling on 40 genes, spanning eight neurological pathways and in four distinct regions of the brain, in combination with behavioural observations and pharmacological manipulations, to screen for regulatory pathways of aggression in the zebrafish (Danio rerio), an animal model in which social rank and aggressiveness tightly correlate. Substantial differences occurred in gene expression profiles between dominant and subordinate males associated with phenotypic differences in aggressiveness and, for the chosen gene set, they occurred mainly in the hypothalamus and telencephalon. The patterns of differentially-expressed genes implied multifactorial control of aggression in zebrafish, including the hypothalamo-neurohypophysial-system, serotonin, somatostatin, dopamine, hypothalamo-pituitary-interrenal, hypothalamo-pituitary-gonadal and histamine pathways, and the latter is a novel finding outside mammals. Pharmacological manipulations of various nodes within the hypothalamo-neurohypophysial-system and serotonin pathways supported their functional involvement. We also observed differences in expression profiles in the brains of dominant versus subordinate females that suggested sex-conserved control of aggression. For example, in the HNS pathway, the gene encoding arginine vasotocin (AVT), previously believed specific to male behaviours, was amongst those genes most associated with aggression, and AVT inhibited dominant female aggression, as in males. However, sex-specific differences in the expression profiles also occurred, including differences in aggression-associated tryptophan hydroxylases and estrogen receptors. Thus, through an integrated approach, combining gene expression profiling, behavioural analyses, and pharmacological manipulations, we identified candidate genes and pathways that appear to play significant roles in regulating aggression in fish. Many of these are novel for non-mammalian systems. We further present a validated system for advancing our understanding of the mechanistic underpinnings of complex behaviours using a fish model.
    Full-text · Article · Sep 2010 · BMC Genomics
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