Testosterone and its metabolites modulate 5HT1A and 5HT1B agonist effects on intermale aggression

Neurosci Biobehav Rev. 1998;23(2):325-36. doi: 10.1016/s0149-7634(98)00034-7.


Our understanding of the neurochemical and neuroendocrine systems' regulating the display of offensive intermale aggression has progressed substantially over the past twenty years. Pharmacological studies have shown that serotonin, via its action at 5HT1A and/or 5HT1B receptor sites, modulates the display of intermale aggressive behavior and that its effects serve to decrease behavioral expression. Neuroendocrine investigations, in turn, have demonstrated that male-typical aggression is testosterone-dependent and studies of genetic effects, metabolic function and steroid receptor binding have shown that facilitation of behavioral displays can occur via independent androgen-sensitive or estrogen-sensitive pathways. Remarkably, there have been virtually no studies that examined the interrelationship between these facilitative and inhibitory systems. As an initial step toward characterizing the interaction between the systems, studies were conducted that assessed hormonal modulation of serotonin function at 5HT1A and 5HT1B receptor sites. They demonstrated: (1) that the androgenic and estrogenic metabolites of testosterone differentially modulate the ability of systemically administered 8-OH-DPAT (a 5HT1A agonist) and CGS12066B (a 5HT1B agonist) to decrease offensive aggression; and (2) when microinjected into the lateral septum (LS) or medial preoptic area (MPO), the aggression-attenuating effects of 1A and 1B agonists differ regionally and vary with the steroidal milieu. In general, the results suggest that estrogens establish a restrictive environment for attenuation of T-dependent aggression by 8-OH-DPAT and CGS 12066B, while androgens either do not inhibit, or perhaps even facilitate, the ability of 5HT1A and 5HT1B agonists to reduce aggression. Potential mechanisms involved in the production of these steroidal effects are discussed and emerging issues that may impact on efforts to develop an integrative neurobiological model of offensive, intermale aggression are considered.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Aggression / drug effects*
  • Animals
  • Male
  • Receptor, Serotonin, 5-HT1B
  • Receptors, Serotonin / drug effects*
  • Receptors, Serotonin, 5-HT1
  • Serotonin Receptor Agonists / pharmacology*
  • Testosterone / pharmacology*


  • Receptor, Serotonin, 5-HT1B
  • Receptors, Serotonin
  • Receptors, Serotonin, 5-HT1
  • Serotonin Receptor Agonists
  • Testosterone