Selective Response of Medial Amygdala Subregions to Reproductive and Defensive Chemosignals from Conspecific and Heterospecific Species
In hamsters and inbred mice, pheromone-containing chemosensory signals originating from the animal’s own species (conspecific) and other species (heterospecific) produce differential patterns of immediate early gene (IEG = Fos/FRAs) expression in the medial amygdala. In males of both species, conspecific stimuli, regardless of gender or putative function, activated neurons in both anterior and posterior medial amygdala (MeA, MeP). With heterospecific stimuli, MeA was activated but MeP appeared to be suppressed. MeP neurons expressing GABA-receptor were selectively suppressed by heterospecific stimuli at the same time as the GABAergic caudal intercalated nucleus (ICNc) of the amygdala was activated, suggesting suppression of MeP by ICN. We propose that information on conspecific chemosignals with preprogrammed meaning (pheromones) is analyzed by MeP neurons, probably influenced by gonadal steroid status. Information about heterospecific stimuli that activate anterior medial amygdala via the vomeronasal organ appears to have restricted access to MeP. Signals from conspecific males that are potentially threatening elicit different patterns of activation in MeP than other conspecific signals. In hamsters, male flank gland secretion activates predominantly GABA-immunoreactive neurons and mainly in ventral MeP (MePv). Male mouse urine also activates predominantly MePv in mice. This region responds to predator odors in rats and is reported to do so in mice. These findings, with other data, support a division of labor in medial amygdala according to the reproductive or defense-related potential of the stimuli. There is some evidence for a convergence of information on conspecific and heterospecific threatening stimuli but, so far, the details are not entirely consistent. In our experiments with hamsters and mice, stimuli from potential predators (cat urine, cat collar) like other heterospecific stimuli, activated MeA and not MeP. Others studying mice found activation in ventral MeA (MeAv) during male-male interactions and in MePv by cat collar stimuli. Since the submission of this paper we have also found activation in mouse MePv by stronger cat collar stimuli (see note at end of text).
KeywordsSelective Response Medial Preoptic Area Vomeronasal Organ Accessory Olfactory Bulb Male Hamster
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