Photoperiod reverses the effects of estrogens on male aggression via genomic and nongenomic pathways

Brian C. Trainor, Shili Lin, M. Sima Finy, Michael R. Rowland, Randy J. Nelson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

90 Scopus citations


Despite recent discoveries of the specific contributions of genes to behavior, the molecular mechanisms mediating contributions of the environment are understudied. We demonstrate that the behavioral effects of estrogens on aggression are completely reversed by a discrete environmental signal, day length. Selective activation of either estrogen receptor α or β decreases aggression in long days and increases aggression in short days. In the bed nucleus of the stria terminalis, one of several nuclei in a neural circuit that controls aggression, estrogen-dependent gene expression is increased in long days but not in short days, suggesting that estrogens decrease aggression by driving estrogen-dependent gene expression. Estradiol injections increased aggression within 15 min in short days but not in long days, suggesting that estrogens increase aggression in short days primarily via nongenomic pathways. These data demonstrate that the environment can dictate how hormones affect a complex behavior by altering the molecular pathways targeted by steroid receptors.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)9840-9845
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number23
StatePublished - Jun 5 2007


  • Estrogen receptor
  • Peromyscus polionotus
  • Seasonality
  • Social behavior

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Genetics
  • General


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