Copulation activates Fos-like immunoreactivity in the male quail forebrain

S L Meddle, V M King, J C Wingfield, B K Follett, M Ramenofsky, A Foidart, J Balthazart

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It has been demonstrated using Fos immunocytochemistry that copulation activates specific cell populations in the mammalian brain. Prior to this study, no similar work has been carried out in birds. In mammals, Fos has identified brain circuits activated by genital (penile)/somatosensory and by olfactory/vomeronasal stimuli. Such inputs, of course, should play little or no role in birds (no penis, little or no role for olfaction) and a differential responsiveness could therefore be expected. Male Japanese quail (Coturnix japonica) were allowed to interact freely with adult females and the presence of active sexual behavior, including cloacal contact movements, was confirmed in each case. Control subjects were exposed to a domestic chick (same size as an adult quail) and no sexual behavior was observed. Copulation induced the appearance of Fos-like immunoreactive (FLI) cells in the preoptic area, the hyperstriatum ventrale, parts of the archistriatum, and the nucleus intercollicularis. Induction of FLI cells was observed throughout the rostral to caudal extent of the preoptic region of males from the level of the tractus septomesencephalicus to the level of the anterior commissure, and in the rostral part of the hypothalamus to the level of the supraoptic decussation. The FLI cells did not lie directly adjacent to the third ventricle, but were located 500-1000 microns from the ventricle wall at the level of the lateral edge of the medial preoptic nucleus or, in more caudal sections, in a position ventrolateral to the bed nucleus striae terminalis. It is unlikely that the Fos induction in males resulted from copulation-induced endocrine changes because copulation did not affect plasma levels of luteinizing hormone or testosterone. It is concluded that the responses were due to copulation-associated somatosensory inputs and/or to stimuli originating from the female.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)143-59
Number of pages17
JournalBehavioural Brain Research
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1997


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