Adult male prairie voles (Microtus ochrogaster) are highly gregarious and socially monogamous, which is dissimilar to most other male rodents but reminiscent of many primates, including humans. This has resulted in prairie voles becoming a premier model in which to study the neural and hormonal basis of complex social behaviors, as well as the atypical development of these behaviors. This research is impeded by the complete lack of knowledge about the gonadal steroid environment during early development in this species. In many other animals, testicular hormones released during perinatal life permanently organize the neural substrates underlying later social behaviors in males, so knowledge about the presence or possibly even absence of testosterone in male prairie vole pups would provide important insight into their neurobehavioral development. In this study, male and female prairie vole pups were sacrificed 1, 2, 3, 4 or 5 days after birth and radioimmunoassay used to determine plasma levels of testosterone. We found that testosterone was detectable in both sexes on all days and that levels were significantly higher in males than females. Testosterone in neonatal males was sometimes as high as breeding males sampled one day after the birth of a litter. This study is the first to examine circulating testosterone in neonatal prairie voles, or any other species of Microtus, and the results indicate similarity to other rodents. This is surprising because some previous studies manipulating gonadal hormones in neonatal prairie voles have found limited effects on their neurobehavioral development, suggesting the existence of some unique, yet-to-be-revealed aspects of their neuroendocrine profile during early life.
- Sex difference
- Social behavior
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
- Endocrine and Autonomic Systems
- Psychiatry and Mental health
- Biological Psychiatry