Progesterone impairs social recognition in male rats.

Research paper by Meaghan E ME Bychowski, Catherine J CJ Auger

Indexed on: 01 Mar '12Published on: 01 Mar '12Published in: Hormones and Behavior


The influence of progesterone in the brain and on the behavior of females is fairly well understood. However, less is known about the effect of progesterone in the male system. In male rats, receptors for progesterone are present in virtually all vasopressin (AVP) immunoreactive cells in the bed nucleus of the stria terminalis (BST) and the medial amygdala (MeA). This colocalization functions to regulate AVP expression, as progesterone and/or progestin receptors (PR)s suppress AVP expression in these same extrahypothalamic regions in the brain. These data suggest that progesterone may influence AVP-dependent behavior. While AVP is implicated in numerous behavioral and physiological functions in rodents, AVP appears essential for social recognition of conspecifics. Therefore, we examined the effects of progesterone on social recognition. We report that progesterone plays an important role in modulating social recognition in the male brain, as progesterone treatment leads to a significant impairment of social recognition in male rats. Moreover, progesterone appears to act on PRs to impair social recognition, as progesterone impairment of social recognition is blocked by a PR antagonist, RU-486. Social recognition is also impaired by a specific progestin agonist, R5020. Interestingly, we show that progesterone does not interfere with either general memory or olfactory processes, suggesting that progesterone seems critically important to social recognition memory. These data provide strong evidence that physiological levels of progesterone can have an important impact on social behavior in male rats.