Motoneurons in the spinal nucleus of the bulbocavernosus (SNB) and their target muscles, bulbocavernosus and levator ani (BC/LA), constitute an androgen-sensitive neuromuscular system. Testosterone regulates SNB soma size, SNB dendritic length, and BC/LA muscle mass in adult male rats. Recent evidence indicates that the cell death-regulatory protein, Bcl-2, may also play a role in adult neural plasticity. The present study examined whether gonadal hormones and/or the Bcl-2 protein influence the morphology of the SNB neuromuscular system in adult B6D2F1 mice. In Experiment 1, adult wild-type and Bcl-2 overexpressing males were castrated and implanted with silastic capsules containing testosterone or left blank. Six weeks after castration, cholera toxin-horseradish peroxidase was injected into the BC muscle to label SNB dendrites. Animals were killed 48 h later, and BC/LA muscle mass, SNB soma size, and SNB dendritic arbors were examined. In Experiment 2, wild-type and Bcl-2 overexpressing males were castrated or sham castrated, implanted with testosterone-filled or blank capsules, and examined 12 weeks later. In both experiments, BC/LA muscle mass and SNB soma size were significantly reduced in castrates receiving blank capsules. Surprisingly, however, there was no effect of hormone manipulation on any of several measures of dendritic length. Thus, the dendritic morphology of SNB motoneurons appears to be relatively insensitive to circulating androgen levels in B6D2F1 mice. Bcl-2 overexpression did not influence BC/LA muscle mass, SNB soma size, or SNB dendritic length, indicating that the morphology of this neuromuscular system and the response to castration are not altered by forced expression of the Bcl-2 protein.
Copyright 2002 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.