Food deprivation and the role of estradiol in mediating sexual behaviors in meadow voles


Female mammals are particularly sensitive to changes in food availability. The mechanisms that affect sexual behavior and food intake are closely related to one another; chief among the mechanisms that control sexual behaviors in females is estradiol. In order to understand how food deprivation results in inhibition of sexual behavior (attractivity, proceptivity, and receptivity), we measured the effects of food deprivation on circulating concentrations of estradiol. We also determined whether estradiol treatment was sufficient to restore sexual behaviors in food-deprived female meadow voles. We found that estradiol titers of food-deprived female voles are significantly lower than those of ad lib-fed female voles. Further, we found that estradiol treatment was sufficient to restore proceptivity and receptivity in food-deprived, ovariectomized female voles. However, estradiol treatment was not able to overcome the food deprivation-induced inhibition of attractivity. Thus, decreases in estradiol titer of food-deprived female voles may be related to the suppression of their proceptive and receptive behaviors, and may be a mechanism that allows females to avoid mating when conditions are not propitious for their survival and that of their offspring. © 2006 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Publication Title

Physiology and Behavior