Distinct correlations of vasopressin release within the lateral septum and the bed nucleus of the stria terminalis with the display of intermale aggression

Horm Behav. 2010 Jul;58(2):273-81. doi: 10.1016/j.yhbeh.2010.03.006. Epub 2010 Mar 15.


Arginine vasopressin (AVP) has been implicated in a wide variety of social behaviors ranging from affiliation to aggression. However, the precise functional involvement of AVP in intermale aggression is still a matter of debate. In fact, very little is known about AVP release patterns within distinct brain regions during the display of intermale aggression and, in turn, the behavioral consequences of such release. We used intracerebral microdialysis to monitor local AVP release within the lateral septum (LS) and the bed nucleus of the stria terminalis (BST) of adult male Wistar rats during the resident-intruder (RI) test. Resident males were cohabitated with a female prior to the RI test to stimulate intermale aggression toward the intruder male. AVP release within the LS correlated positively with intermale aggression. The specific AVP V1a receptor antagonist d(CH(2))(5)Tyr(Me)AVP (10 microg/ml) administered via retrodialysis (3.3 microl/min, 30 min) into the LS of high-aggressive rats prior to the second RI test, prevented an increase in aggression in the second compared with the first RI test as seen in vehicle-treated high-aggressive rats. In contrast to the LS, AVP release within the BST correlated negatively with intermale aggression. Moreover, retrodialysis of synthetic AVP (1 microg/ml) administered into the BST of high-aggressive rats significantly reduced the display of aggression during the second RI test. These data reveal that AVP can both promote and inhibit intermale aggression, depending upon the brain region in which AVP is released. Although challenging the general view that central AVP release enhances intermale aggression in rodents, our data support a model in which AVP coordinates a range of social behaviors by eliciting region-specific effects.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aggression / drug effects
  • Aggression / physiology*
  • Animals
  • Antidiuretic Hormone Receptor Antagonists
  • Arginine Vasopressin / analogs & derivatives
  • Arginine Vasopressin / metabolism*
  • Arginine Vasopressin / pharmacology
  • Female
  • Hormone Antagonists / pharmacology
  • Housing, Animal
  • Male
  • Psychological Tests
  • Rats
  • Rats, Wistar
  • Receptors, Vasopressin / metabolism
  • Septal Nuclei / drug effects
  • Septal Nuclei / metabolism*
  • Social Behavior*
  • Territoriality
  • Time Factors


  • Antidiuretic Hormone Receptor Antagonists
  • Hormone Antagonists
  • Receptors, Vasopressin
  • Arginine Vasopressin
  • vasopressin, 1-(1-mercaptocyclohexaneacetic acid)-2-(O- methyl-L-tyrosine)-8-L-arginine-