Experimental Brain Research

, Volume 101, Issue 2, pp 241–252 | Cite as

Morphometric studies demonstrate that aromatase-immunoreactive cells are the main target of androgens and estrogens in the quail medial preoptic nucleus

  • N. Aste
  • G. C. Panzica
  • P. Aimar
  • C. Viglietti-Panzica
  • N. Harada
  • A. Foidart
  • J. Balthazart
Original Paper


The volume and cytoarchitectonic organization of the sexually dimorphic medial preoptic nucleus (POM) of the quail are sensitive to plasma levels of testosterone (T). We previously showed that, in castrated quail, T or its estrogenic metabolite, estradiol (E2), increases the size of the large neurons located in the lateral part of POM. Embryonic treatments with estrogens are also known to affect permanently the size of these large neurons. Since the lateral POM also contains a dense population of aromatase-immunoreactive (ARO-ir) cells, and these are known to be a target for steroids, we hypothesized that the effects of steroids identified in previous experiments were primarily directed to these ARO-ir cells. This idea was tested in two experiments in which the size of these cells was measured in male quail under various endocrine conditions. In experiment 1, a detailed analysis of ARO-ir and of non-immunoreactive cells in the POM of adult, sexually mature males revealed that the immunoreactive perikarya are larger than the non-immunoreactive cells and that they constitute the vast majority of the large cells (area > 50 μm2) in the POM. In experiment 2, it was shown that T and E2 actually increase the size of ARO-ir cells in the POM while the androgenic metabolite of T, dihydrotestosterone has no effect at this level. Taken together, these data suggest that the sex differences and the steroid-induced changes in cell size previously described in the study of POM sections stained for Nissl material largely concern aromatase-containing cells. Since aromatization of T plays a limiting role in the activation of male copulatory behavior, these changes may represent the morphological signature of the mechanisms causally involved in the control of this behavior.

Key words

Aromatase immunocytochemistry Preoptic area Sexual behavior Morphometry Quail 


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 1994

Authors and Affiliations

  • N. Aste
    • 1
  • G. C. Panzica
    • 1
  • P. Aimar
    • 1
  • C. Viglietti-Panzica
    • 1
  • N. Harada
    • 2
  • A. Foidart
    • 3
  • J. Balthazart
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of Human Anatomy and Physiology, Section Neuroanatomy and NeuroembryologyUniversity of TurinTurinItaly
  2. 2.Department of Molecular GeneticsSchool of Medicine, Fujita Health UniversityAichiJapan
  3. 3.Laboratory of BiochemistryUniversity of LiègeLiègeBelgium

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