Effects of sexual interactions with a male on fos-like immunoreactivity in the female quail brain

J Neuroendocrinol. 1999 Oct;11(10):771-84. doi: 10.1046/j.1365-2826.1999.00384.x.


Sexual interactions can cause changes in plasma hormone levels and activate immediate early genes within the mammalian brain. There are marked anatomical differences between the regions activated that relate directly to the sexual specific behaviour and neuroendocrinology of each sex. The aim of this study was to determine if such a sexual dimorphism exists in birds by examining the brain regions stimulated in adult virgin female Japanese quail (Coturnix japonica) during sexual behaviour and comparing this to previously reported data concerning males. Female quail were allowed to freely interact with adult males and both female and male sexual behaviour was recorded. Contrary to previous findings in male quail, no significant induction of Fos-like immunoreactive (FLI) cells was observed following sexual interactions in the preoptic area of females; this area is fundamentally involved in the control of male-type copulatory behaviour. Sexual interactions significantly induced FLI cells in the hyperstriatum ventrale, the part of the archistriatum just lateral to the anterior commissure, and the nucleus intercollicularis. Moreover, prominent activation was detected throughout most of the ventromedial nucleus of the hypothalamus, a region reported to be rich in oestrogen receptors. FLI induction was not a consequence of sexual behaviour induced changes in luteinizing hormone (LH) as plasma LH levels were unaltered. Instead, brain activation must be a consequence of copulation-associated somatosensory inputs or direct stimuli originating from the male. Male quail, like the majority of other birds, lack an intromittant organ (penis) so that the somatosensory inputs to the female are rather different from those in mammals; the precise nature of these inputs is yet to be determined.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain / anatomy & histology
  • Brain / metabolism*
  • Coturnix / blood
  • Coturnix / physiology*
  • Female
  • Luteinizing Hormone / blood
  • Male
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-fos / metabolism*
  • Sexual Behavior, Animal / physiology*


  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-fos
  • Luteinizing Hormone