A sexually dimorphic male nucleus (MN) of the preoptic area/anterior hypothalamus (POA/AH), comprising large, estradiol-receptor containing neurons, is formed in male ferrets due to the action of estradiol, derived from the neural aromatization of circulating testosterone, during the last quarter of a 41-day gestation. Two experiments were conducted to compare the birthdates and the migration pattern of cells into the sexually dimorphic portion of the dorsomedial POA/AH as well as the nondimorphic ventral nucleus (VN) of the POA/AH of males and females. In experiment 1 the thymidine analog, bromodeoxyuridine (BrdU), was injected into the amniotic sacs of fetuses of different mothers between embryonic (E) days 18 and 30. Kits from all mothers were sacrificed on E38, and brains were processed to localize BrdU immunoreactivity (IR) for determining the birthdates of neurons in the POA/AH. Cells in the MN-POA/AH of males and in a comparable region of females were born between E22 and E28; cells in the nondimorphic VN-POA/AH of both sexes were born between these same ages. These results suggest that cells in the sexually dimorphic as well as the nondimorphic subdivision of the ferret POA/AH are born during the same embryonic period. This is well before the ages (E30-E41) when administering testosterone to females can stimulate, and blocking androgen aromatization in males can inhibit, MN-POA/AH differentiation. In experiment 2 BrdU was injected on E24, and kits from different litters were perfused on E30, E34, or E38. Brains were processed for BrdU-IR as well as glial fibrillary acidic protein (GFAP), which served as a marker for radial glial processes. The orientation of radial glial processes in fetal brains of both sexes suggested that cells migrate into the dorsomedial POA/AH from proliferative zones lining the lateral as well as the third ventricles. Quantitative, computer-assisted image analysis of BrdU-IR in groups of male and female brains supported this hypothesis. There were no significant sex differences in the distribution of BrdU-IR over the three ages studied, suggesting that formation of the MN-POA/AH in males cannot be attributed to an effect of estradiol on the migration of those cells born on E24 into this sexually dimorphic structure. Finally, total BrdU-IR did not change significantly in the POA/AH of male and female kits killed at E30, E34, or E38 while the area of the POA/AH increased more than 2.5-fold over this period, suggesting that few of the POA/AH cells born on E24 die during this period in either sex. In the absence of evidence that formation of the male ferret's MN-POA/AH depends on steroid-induced changes in neurogenesis, cell migration, or death, we suggest that the specification of a particular neuronal phenotype (e.g., large somal size; capacity to produce some undetermined neurotransmitter or neuropeptide) may be responsible.
|Number of pages||14|
|Journal||Journal of Neurobiology|
|Publication status||Published - 1996 Jul|
- glial fibrillary acidic protein
- sexual differentiation
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience