Sex and social status modify the effects of fluoxetine on socioemotional behaviors in Syrian hamsters and rhesus macaques

Pharmacol Biochem Behav. 2022 Apr:215:173362. doi: 10.1016/j.pbb.2022.173362. Epub 2022 Feb 24.


Social subordination increases risk for psychiatric disorders, while dominance increases resilience to these disorders. Fluoxetine, a selective serotonin (5HT) reuptake inhibitor whose actions are mediated in part by the 5HT1A receptor (5HT1AR), has sex- and social status-specific effects on socioemotional behavior and aggressive behavior. However, the impact of social status on these sex-specific effects remains unclear. The current study evaluated the impact of acute fluoxetine treatment and social status on dominance-related behaviors in female and male hamsters, and the impact of chronic fluoxetine treatment on socioemotional behavior and 5HT1AR binding potential (5HT1ARBP) in female rhesus macaques. We hypothesized that sex differences in the effects of fluoxetine on aggression in hamsters would be diminished in dominant and enhanced in subordinate males and that aggression in female hamsters would be enhanced in dominants and diminished in subordinates. In female rhesus macaques, we hypothesized that chronic fluoxetine would alter socioemotional behaviors and site-specific 5HT1ARBP in a status-dependent manner. Male (n = 46) and female (n = 56) hamsters were paired with conspecifics for three days to establish social rank. Hamsters received a single dose of 20 mg/kg fluoxetine or vehicle two-hours prior to a test with a non-aggressive intruder. Female rhesus monkeys (n = 14) housed were administered fluoxetine (2.8 mg/kg/day) or vehicle injections chronically for 14-days, separated by a three-week washout period. On Day 15, positron emission tomography neuroimaging for 5HT1ARBP was conducted. Fluoxetine treatment decreased aggression in subordinate female monkeys and subordinate female hamsters but not in dominant females of either species. Fluoxetine decreased aggression in dominant but not in subordinate male hamsters. Fluoxetine also reduced and increased prefrontal 5HT1ARBP in dominant and subordinate females, respectively. Taken together, these results provide cross-species evidence that social status and sex impact how increased 5HT modulates agonistic behavior.

Keywords: Aggression; Fluoxetine; Hamsters; Monkeys; Serotonin; Sex differences; Social dominance.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Aggression
  • Animals
  • Cricetinae
  • Female
  • Fluoxetine* / pharmacology
  • Humans
  • Macaca mulatta
  • Male
  • Mesocricetus
  • Social Status*


  • Fluoxetine