Androgen threshold to activate copulation differs in male rats prenatally exposed to alcohol, stress, or both factors

Ingeborg L. Ward, Amy L. Bennett, O. Byron Ward, Shelton E. Hendricks, Jeffrey A. French

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Scopus citations


Few male rats prenatally exposed to a combination of alcohol and stress copulate spontaneously. This study determined adult sensitivity to testosterone (T) in males prenatally exposed to alcohol, to stress, or to both factors. Sexually naive males were tested with receptive females following castration and implantation of 20-, 30-, or 45-mm Silastic T-filled capsules. Serum T levels provided by these implants were measured. The behavior shown by males exposed only to prenatal alcohol did not differ from untreated control animals at any T dosage. Prenatal stress alone diminished the copulatory potential below control levels only when the intermediate T dosage was provided. Few males exposed to both alcohol and stress copulated under the lowest or the intermediate dose of adult T replacement, but most ejaculated normally when the largest capsule was implanted. The threshold to the sexual behavior-activating-properties of adult T exposure was moderately raised by prenatal stress but was severely affected when prenatal stress was combined with alcohol. We conclude that a diminished sensitivity to androgen in adulthood underlies some copulatory deficits resulting from treatments that alter fetal T levels. Such deficits may be concealed when behavior is evaluated in gonadally intact animals.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)129-140
Number of pages12
JournalHormones and Behavior
Issue number2
StatePublished - Oct 1999
Externally publishedYes


  • Ethanol
  • Fetus
  • Male sexual behavior
  • Sexual differentiation
  • Silastic implant
  • Testosterone metabolism
  • Testosterone sensitivity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Endocrinology
  • Endocrine and Autonomic Systems
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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