Animals respond to environmental and social change with plasticity in the neural substrates underlying particular behavioral states. In the African cichlid fish Astatotilapia burtoni, social dominance status in males is accompanied by reduced somatic growth rate as well as increased somatostatin neuron size in the preoptic area. Although somatostatin is commonly studied within the context of growth, we show here for the first time that this ancient neuropeptide also plays a role in controlling social behavior. Somatostatin antagonists increased aggressive behavior in a dose-dependent fashion and the potent somatostatin agonist octreotide decreased aggression. We cloned and sequenced the genes encoding two somatostatin receptor subtypes in this species to study transcription in the gonads. When we examined somatostatin receptor gene expression in testes, expression of the somatostatin type 3 receptor was negatively correlated with an aggressive display and androgen levels. However, octreotide treatment did not reduce plasma testosterone or 11-ketotestosterone levels, suggesting that the behavioral effects of somatostatin are not mediated by androgens. These results show that somatostatin has important effects on social behavior. In dominant male A. burtoni, somatostatin may function to contain energetically costly processes such as somatic growth and aggressive behavior.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism