Vasopressin alters female sexual behaviour by acting on the brain independently of alterations in blood pressure

Nature. 1983 Feb 17-23;301(5901):608-10. doi: 10.1038/301608a0.


Subcutaneous (s.c.) administration of Arg-vasopressin (AVP) prolongs retention of a learned behaviour and elevates arterial blood pressure. Intracerebroventricular (i.c.v.) injection of a thousandfold lower dose of AVP than needed with s.c. injection produces the same behavioural effect, suggesting that AVP acts on the brain to control behaviour. However, as i.c.v. injection of AVP also elevates arterial blood pressure, it was suggested that AVP, and perhaps other peptides as well, influences behaviour indirectly by eliciting a peripheral response, for example blood pressure changes, rather than by acting directly on the brain. The suprachiasmatic nuclei (SCN) of the hypothalamus, a source of vasopressin production, inhibit sexual receptivity in oestradiol-17 beta-treated ovariectomized rats during the light phase of the daily lighting cycle, leading to speculation that vasopressin might inhibit sexual behaviour. Here we report that i.c.v. injections of AVP (1, 4 or 10 ng) inhibit sexual behaviour in receptive rats. This behavioural response is prevented by i.c.v. injection of an antiserum to AVP 30 min before AVP injection. Subcutaneous injection of a high dose of AVP (1 microgram) has no behavioural effect but elevates arterial blood pressure within 30 min of administration. Intracerebroventricular injection of a behaviourally effective dose of AVP (1 ng) has no effect on blood pressure. The results provide direct evidence that AVP can alter behaviour by an action on the brain and independently of its effect on blood pressure.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Arginine Vasopressin / administration & dosage
  • Arginine Vasopressin / pharmacology*
  • Blood Pressure / drug effects*
  • Brain / drug effects*
  • Estradiol / pharmacology
  • Female
  • Injections, Intraventricular
  • Injections, Subcutaneous
  • Posture
  • Progesterone / pharmacology
  • Rats
  • Rats, Inbred Strains
  • Sexual Behavior, Animal / drug effects*


  • Arginine Vasopressin
  • Progesterone
  • Estradiol