Selective effects of beta-endorphin infused into the hypothalamus, preoptic area and bed nucleus of the stria terminalis on the sexual and ingestive behaviour of male rats

Neuroscience. 1987 Dec;23(3):1063-73. doi: 10.1016/0306-4522(87)90181-3.


beta-Endorphin was infused bilaterally into the medial preoptic area-anterior hypothalamic continuum at doses of 5, 10 and 40 pmol each side. The highest dose selectively abolished mounting, intromitting and ejaculating in sexually experienced male rats paired with an oestrous female. Males infused with 40 pmol beta-endorphin still followed the female, investigated her anogenital region and other parts of her body, but made abortive attempts to mount. A dose of 5 pmol beta-endorphin had no effect, but 10 pmol proved partially effective. The same males, in other tests, were allowed to ingest a highly preferred, sweet, non-calorific solution (acesulfame-K) in the absence of a female. beta-Endorphin infusions (up to 40 pmol) into the same area of the hypothalamus had no effect on this behaviour. Control males allowed simultaneous access both to an oestrous female and to the sweet solution copulated normally but reduced their ingestive behaviour, despite there being sufficient time during tests for both to occur. beta-Endorphin (40 pmol) infused into the preoptic area-anterior hypothalamic continuum under these conditions suppressed sexual interaction, but ingestion of acesulfame-K increased to values observed when the female was absent. beta-Endorphin infused into neighbouring areas of the brain had different behavioural effects. Sexual behaviour was not inhibited, and ingestion of acesulfame-K was unaltered, when beta-endorphin was infused either into the bed nucleus of the stria terminalis or the rostral ventromedial hypothalamus. However, infusions of cholecystokinin-8 into the ventromedial hypothalamus suppressed acesulfame-K ingestion in most animals, showing that the cannulae were placed in an area regulating ingestive behaviour. The inhibition of sexual behaviour after preoptic area-anterior hypothalamic continuum infusions of beta-endorphin was prevented by either pretreating rats with 1 mg/kg naloxone intraperitoneally, or by infusing a putative delta opiate receptor blocker (0.5 pmols ICI 174864) into the preoptic area-anterior hypothalamic continuum 5 min prior to beta-endorphin treatment. ICI 174864 administered alone significantly increased mount rate and reduced the post-ejaculatory refractory period in copulating males. These experiments suggest that there is both neurochemical and neuroanatomical specificity relating beta-endorphin to sexual behaviour in the male rat.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cholecystokinin / administration & dosage
  • Cholecystokinin / pharmacology
  • Enkephalin, Leucine / analogs & derivatives
  • Enkephalin, Leucine / pharmacology
  • Feeding Behavior / drug effects
  • Feeding Behavior / physiology*
  • Hypothalamus, Anterior / drug effects
  • Hypothalamus, Anterior / physiology*
  • Male
  • Naloxone / pharmacology
  • Preoptic Area / drug effects
  • Preoptic Area / physiology*
  • Rats
  • Reaction Time / drug effects
  • Receptors, Opioid / drug effects
  • Receptors, Opioid / physiology
  • Sexual Behavior, Animal / drug effects
  • Sexual Behavior, Animal / physiology*
  • Thiazines / administration & dosage
  • beta-Endorphin / administration & dosage*
  • beta-Endorphin / pharmacology


  • Receptors, Opioid
  • Thiazines
  • Naloxone
  • Enkephalin, Leucine
  • beta-Endorphin
  • N,N-diallyl-tyrosyl-alpha-aminoisobutyric acid-phenylalanyl-leucine
  • Cholecystokinin
  • acetosulfame