Behavioral effects of progesterone associated with rapid modulation of oxytocin receptors

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Science  02 Nov 1990:
Vol. 250, Issue 4981, pp. 691-694
DOI: 10.1126/science.2173139


The ventromedial nuclei of the hypothalamus (VMN) are important for the control of feminine mating behavior, and hormone action within these nuclei has been causally related to behavior. Estradiol induces receptors for oxytocin in the VMN and in the area lateral to these nuclei over the course of 1 to 2 days, and progesterone causes, within 30 minutes of its application, a further increase in receptor binding and an expansion of the area covered by these receptors lateral to the VMN. The rapid progesterone effect appears to be a direct and specific effect of this steroid on the receptor or membrane, because it was produced in vitro as well as in vivo and was not mimicked by a variety of other steroids. The effect of progesterone occurred in the posterior part of the VMN, where oxytocin infusion facilitated feminine mating behavior; it did not take place in the anterior part of the VMN, where oxytocin infusion had no effect on mating behavior.

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