Dehydroepiandrosterone alleviates copulatory disorder induced by social stress in male rats

J Sex Med. 2006 Jul;3(4):612-618. doi: 10.1111/j.1743-6109.2006.00272.x.


Introduction: Social stress induces sexual dysfunction and reduces serum testosterone (T) level in rats. Stressful events exert an influence on a variety of behaviors and physiology through hormonal changes. The mechanism of stress-induced sexual dysfunction is unknown.

Aim: To investigate the role of dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) in copulatory behavior induced by social stress in rats.

Methods: Stress-induced male rats were subjected to social stress in which the males lived in a wire-mesh siege located in a colony of male and female rats and were exposed daily to a brief defeat by the colony of males for five consecutive days. After the stress period, copulatory behavior and serum concentrations of DHEA and T were measured.

Main outcome measures: The effects of DHEA, T, and NE-100, a selective sigma 1 receptor antagonist, on copulatory behavior following social stress were examined.

Results: The males exhibited a marked suppression of copulatory behavior (elongation of intromission and ejaculation latencies). Serum concentrations of DHEA and T were significantly lower than those in nonstressed control males. Another three groups of social stressed males were injected daily with DHEA, T, or DHEA + NE-100 during the stress period. Injections of DHEA attenuated the stress-induced suppression of copulatory behavior, whereas T had no effect. The combined treatment of NE-100 made DHEA ineffective at restoring copulatory behavior.

Conclusions: These results indicate that DHEA, but not its conversion to T, alleviates the suppressive effect of social stress on copulatory behavior via sigma 1 receptors. We suggest that the decreased endogenous DHEA is involved in copulatory disorders induced by social stress in rats.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Copulation / drug effects*
  • Dehydroepiandrosterone / blood
  • Dehydroepiandrosterone / pharmacology*
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Ejaculation / drug effects*
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Sexual Dysfunctions, Psychological / drug therapy*
  • Sexual Dysfunctions, Psychological / etiology
  • Sexual Dysfunctions, Psychological / physiopathology
  • Stress, Psychological / complications*
  • Stress, Psychological / physiopathology
  • Testosterone / blood


  • Testosterone
  • Dehydroepiandrosterone