Photoperiod affects estrogen receptor α, estrogen receptor β and aggressive behavior

Brian C. Trainor, Michael R. Rowland, Randy J. Nelson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

52 Scopus citations


Estrogens have important effects on male and female social behavior. Despite growing knowledge of the anatomy and behavioral effects of the two predominant estrogen receptor subtypes in mammals (ERα and ERβ), relatively little is known about how these receptors respond to salient environmental stimuli. Many seasonally breeding species respond to changing photoperiods that predict seasonal changes in resource availability. We characterized the effects of photoperiod on aggressive behavior in two species of Peromyscus that exhibit gonadal regression in short days. P. polionotus (old field mice) were more aggressive than P. maniculatus (deer mice) and both species were more aggressive in short days. We used immunocytochemistry and real-time polymerase chain reaction to characterize the effects of photoperiod on ERα and ERβ expression. In both species ERα-immunoreactive staining in the posterior bed nucleus of the stria terminalis (BNST) was increased in short vs. long days. Both species had reduced ERβ- immunoreactive expression in the posterior BNST in short days. In the medial amygdala ERβ immunoreactivity was increased in long days for both species. Using real-time polymerase chain reaction on punch samples that included the BNST, we observed that ERα mRNA was increased and ERβ mRNA was decreased in short days. These data suggest that the effects of photoperiod on ERα and ERβ expression may thus have important behavioral consequences.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)207-218
Number of pages12
JournalEuropean Journal of Neuroscience
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jul 2007


  • Androgen
  • Aromatase
  • Hypothalamus
  • Medial amygdala
  • Peromyscus polionotus
  • Social behavior

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)


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