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Hoffmann, R. A wiki for the life sciences where authorship matters. Nature Genetics (2008)

Estrogen alters excitability but not morphology of a sexually dimorphic neuromuscular system in adult rats.

In rats, motoneurons of the spinal nucleus of the bulbocavernosus (SNB) innervate the bulbocavernosus (BC) muscle, which surrounds the base of the penis. The SNB/BC is a sexually dimorphic, steroid-sensitive neuromuscular system, which is critically important in male reproductive behavior. Androgens are necessary for the development, morphology, and function of the SNB/BC system. However, estradiol ( E) is also necessary for the development of the SNB/BC system, and E is capable of maintaining BC EMG activity in adulthood. In this study, we used electrophysiological and anatomical methods to examine estrogenic effects on BC EMG activity. We used a modified H-reflex testing method to investigate polysynaptic reflex characteristics in intact males, castrates, and castrates treated short term with estradiol benzoate (EB). Measures of EMG activity, response latency, and spike count were altered in castrates, but maintained in EB-treated castrates to the levels of intact males. Furthermore, estrogenic effects were found in EMG activity that could be isolated to the periphery of the SNB/BC system. BC NMJ size and muscle fiber area have been demonstrated to be hormone sensitive, and we examined these for possible correlates of E's effects on BC EMG activity. BC muscles of intact males, castrates, and short-term EB-treated castrates were fixed and stained with zinc iodide and osmium tetroxide. NMJ size and muscle fiber area did not differ between groups. Together, these data suggest that E treatment results in changes in the neuromuscular periphery that maintain BC EMG activity, but this effect cannot be accounted for by changes in NMJ size or muscle fiber area.[1]


  1. Estrogen alters excitability but not morphology of a sexually dimorphic neuromuscular system in adult rats. Fargo, K.N., Foster, A.M., Harty, M.W., Sengelaub, D.R. J. Neurobiol. (2003) [Pubmed]
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