Pheromones elicit equivalent levels of Fos-immunoreactivity in prepubertal and adult male Syrian hamsters

Horm Behav. 1998 Aug;34(1):48-55. doi: 10.1006/hbeh.1998.1463.


Male reproductive behavior in the Syrian hamster is dependent on both pheromones from the female and the presence of gonadal steroid hormones. The pheromones are contained within female hamster vaginal secretions (FHVS) and stimulate anogenital investigation and mounting by the male. Administration of testosterone to castrated male hamsters facilitates anogenital investigation, mounts, and intromissions in adults, but elicits only anogenital investigation in prepubertal males. One hypothesis for why the full complement of reproductive behaviors is not activated by testosterone in prepubertal males is that the neural processing of pheromonal cues encountered during anogenital investigation is different in juveniles and adults. In the present experiment, we investigated the influence of sexual maturity on Fos expression in response to FHVS in the male Syrian hamster. We predicted a greater increase in Fos-immunoreactivity after exposure to FHVS within the neural circuit mediating male reproductive behaviors in adult compared to prepubertal males. Intact adult and prepubertal males were exposed to either a clean cotton swab or a swab containing FHVS. We found that, compared to animals exposed to a clean cotton swab, both prepubertal and adult males exposed to FHVS have a greater amount of Fos-immunoreactivity within several brain nuclei comprising the neural circuit mediating male reproductive behavior. Furthermore, this Fos response was equivalent in the two age groups. These results suggest that the inability of the prepubertal male hamster to perform the full repertoire of male reproductive behaviors is not due to a lack of a neuronal activation in response to the pheromonal cues present in FHVS.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Age Factors
  • Animals
  • Antibodies
  • Brain Chemistry / physiology*
  • Cricetinae
  • Male
  • Mesocricetus
  • Organ Size
  • Pheromones / physiology*
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-fos / analysis*
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-fos / immunology
  • Sexual Behavior, Animal / physiology
  • Sexual Maturation*
  • Testis / physiology
  • Testosterone / blood


  • Antibodies
  • Pheromones
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-fos
  • Testosterone