A sexual arousability model involving steroid effects at the plasma membrane

Neurosci Biobehav Rev. 2002 Jan;26(1):13-30. doi: 10.1016/s0149-7634(01)00035-5.


This review will discuss the status of research related to sexual arousability. It will also present a model for sexual arousability based on current knowledge of steroids effects at the membranes of cells. Steroids have multiple rapid actions that are suggested to result from actions at membrane-associated receptors. When stimulated by steroids these receptors alter G-protein coupling in a manner unique to this complex. Initial stimulation of the receptors by steroids alters the coupling pattern of G-proteins and of other binding sites associated with the complex. This change in G-protein coupling is a stable alteration and thus may serve as a long-term change in the system, which is a requirement of sexual arousability. Stimulation of this receptor system by a surge of oxytocin at ejaculation or orgasm then decouples the G-protein and reduces arousability. Sex hormone binding globulin may be an important ligand at this complex. This model suggests completely new relationships among steroids and their receptors that may complement or diverge from actions at known intracellular receptors.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Cell Membrane / drug effects*
  • GTP-Binding Proteins / drug effects
  • GTP-Binding Proteins / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Models, Biological
  • Neuropeptides / physiology
  • Phosphodiesterase Inhibitors / pharmacology*
  • Piperazines / pharmacology*
  • Purines
  • Receptors, Steroid / drug effects
  • Sexual Behavior / drug effects*
  • Sexual Behavior / physiology
  • Sildenafil Citrate
  • Steroids / pharmacology*
  • Sulfones


  • Neuropeptides
  • Phosphodiesterase Inhibitors
  • Piperazines
  • Purines
  • Receptors, Steroid
  • Steroids
  • Sulfones
  • Sildenafil Citrate
  • GTP-Binding Proteins