Sex and species differences in the effects of cohabitation on vasopressin messenger RNA expression in the bed nucleus of the stria terminalis in prairie voles (Microtus ochrogaster) and meadow voles (Microtus pennsylvanicus)

Brain Res. 1994 Jul 11;650(2):212-8. doi: 10.1016/0006-8993(94)91784-1.


Three days of male and female cohabitation dramatically reduces the density of vasopressin-immunoreactive (AVP-ir) fibers in the lateral septum and lateral habenular nucleus of male, but not of female prairie voles. Here we tested whether this reduction is associated with changes in AVP messenger RNA (mRNA) expression in the bed nucleus of the stria terminalis (BST), the presumed source of these fibers, and with changes in testosterone levels, which may influence AVP biosynthesis in the BST. In addition, we tested whether similar changes can be found in meadow voles, which unlike prairie voles do not dramatically change their social behaviors after mating. In both species, males showed more AVP mRNA-labeled cells in the BST and more grains per labeled cell than females. In prairie vole males, cohabitation increased the number of AVP mRNA labeled BST cells and the density of grains per labeled cells. It also raised plasma testosterone levels. No changes were found in prairie vole females nor in meadow voles of either sex. The changes in prairie vole male suggest that cohabitation stimulates AVP biosynthesis. The previously observed decrease in AVP-ir fiber density in the lateral septum and lateral habenular nucleus may therefore reflect increased synaptic release of AVP, which may contribute to mating-induced changes in social behaviors in prairie vole males.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Arginine Vasopressin / biosynthesis*
  • Arvicolinae / metabolism*
  • Cerebral Ventricles / metabolism*
  • Female
  • In Situ Hybridization
  • Male
  • RNA, Messenger / biosynthesis*
  • Radioimmunoassay
  • Sex Characteristics
  • Sexual Behavior, Animal / physiology*
  • Social Behavior
  • Species Specificity
  • Testosterone / blood
  • Testosterone / pharmacology


  • RNA, Messenger
  • Arginine Vasopressin
  • Testosterone