Male preference for the odors of estrous female mice is enhanced by the neurosteroid 3 alpha-hydroxy-4-pregnen-20-one (3 alpha HP)

Brain Res. 1994 May 16;646(1):140-4. doi: 10.1016/0006-8993(94)90067-1.


The effects of the centrally produced allylic neurosteroid, 3 alpha-hydroxy-4-pregnen-20-one (3 alpha HP), on the responses of male mice to the odors of estrous female mice were examined in an odor preference test. Control untreated mice displayed a significant preference for the odors of an estrous female, spending more time in a Y-maze in the vicinity of the odors of an estrous than a non-estrous female. Intracerebroventricular (i.c.v.) administrations of 3 alpha HP enhanced male preference for the odors of estrous females, causing a significant dose-related (0.01-1.0 microgram) increase in the amount of time spent in the proximity of the odors of the estrous female, while having no significant effect on the responses to the non-estrous female odors. These effects of 3 alpha HP were stereospecific, with the stereoisomer, 3 beta-hydroxy-4-pregnen-20-one (3 beta HP), having no significant effects on odor preferences. The analgesic, morphine, also had no significant effects on the responses to female odors suggesting that the enhanced preference for estrous female odors were unlikely to be directly due to any analgesic effects of 3 alpha HP. The effects of 3 alpha HP were significantly reduced by peripheral administrations of the GABAA antagonists, bicuculline and picrotoxin, but were unaffected by either the benzodiazepine antagonist, Ro 15-1788, or the opiate antagonist, naloxone. These results suggest that the neurosteroid 3 alpha HP has facilitatory effects on olfactory mediated male sexual interest or motivation that involve interactions with the GABAA receptor.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • 20-alpha-Dihydroprogesterone / analogs & derivatives*
  • 20-alpha-Dihydroprogesterone / pharmacology
  • Animals
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Estrus / physiology*
  • Female
  • GABA Antagonists
  • Injections, Intraventricular
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred Strains
  • Odorants*
  • Sexual Behavior, Animal / drug effects*
  • Stereoisomerism


  • GABA Antagonists
  • 20-alpha-Dihydroprogesterone
  • 3-hydroxypregn-4-en-20-one