The uptake of [3H]testosterone and its metabolites by the brain and pituitary gland of the fetal macaque

Endocrinology. 1989 Mar;124(3):1319-26. doi: 10.1210/endo-124-3-1319.


Testosterone is secreted by the fetal testis during gestation, and this is thought to influence certain aspects of the brain's subsequent development. To study this action at the neuronal level, nine macaque fetuses were injected with 250 microCi [3H]testosterone via the umbilical vein at about 120 days gestation. After 60 min, samples of brain and peripheral tissue were studied by autoradiography or HPLC. Purified nuclear pellets were prepared, and radioactivity in ether extracts was fractionated by HPLC and identified by coelution with internal standard steroids. Concentrations of radioactivity were significantly higher (P less than 0.05) in the hypothalamus-preoptic area than in amygdala, hippocampus, midbrain, and cerebral and cerebellar cortexes, and most of the radioactivity (75%) in the hypothalamus-preoptic area coeluted with 17 beta-estradiol. Radioactivity coeluting with 17 beta-estradiol was also detected in nuclear fractions from amygdala (44%). In contrast, 80% of the radioactivity extracted from pituitary gland nuclei coeluted with testosterone. Most of the neurons labeled in autoradiograms were located in the hypothalamus and preoptic area, fewer were found in the amygdala, and labeling in the frontal or motor cortex did not exceed chance levels. Results suggested that aromatization and, consequently, estrogen receptors play a role in the effects of testosterone on the hypothalamus and amygdala of the primate fetus at this stage of development.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Amygdala / metabolism
  • Animals
  • Autoradiography
  • Brain / embryology*
  • Brain / metabolism
  • Cell Nucleus / metabolism
  • Chromatography
  • Estradiol / metabolism
  • Gestational Age
  • Hypothalamus / metabolism
  • Macaca fascicularis
  • Macaca mulatta
  • Neurons / metabolism
  • Pituitary Gland / embryology*
  • Pituitary Gland / metabolism
  • Preoptic Area / metabolism
  • Testosterone / blood
  • Testosterone / metabolism*
  • Tissue Distribution
  • Tritium


  • Tritium
  • Testosterone
  • Estradiol