Comment: Testosterone acts through reward circuit dopamine to affect sexual desire.

2003 Dec;44(5):419-26.
Putnam SK1, Sato S, Hull EM.


The medial preoptic area (MPOA) is an important integrative site for male sexual behavior. Dopamine (DA) is released in the MPOA of male rats shortly before and during copulation. The recent presence of testosterone (T) may be necessary for this precopulatory increase in release. Previously, the postcastration loss of copulatory ability mirrored the loss of the DA response to an estrous female, and the restoration of copulation with exogenous T was concurrent with the reemergence of this DA response. The present study investigated the effectiveness of the two major metabolites of T in maintaining copulation and basal and female-stimulated DA levels. Adult male rats were castrated and received daily injections of estradiol benzoate (EB), dihydrotestosterone benzoate (DHTB), EB + DHTB, testosterone propionate (TP), or oil vehicle for 3 weeks. Microdialysis samples were collected from the MPOA during baseline conditions, exposure to an estrous female behind a barrier, and copulation testing. EB + DHTB- and TP-treated animals had normal basal DA levels and showed a precopulatory DA response, and most copulated normally. EB-treated castrates had high basal DA levels, but failed to show a female-stimulated increase; most intromitted, but none ejaculated. DHTB- and oil-treated groups had low basal levels of extracellular DA that did not increase during copulation testing; most failed to mount and none ejaculated. These results suggest that E maintains normal basal levels of extracellular DA in the MPOA, which are sufficient for suboptimal copulation, but that androgen is required for the female-stimulated increase in DA release and for facilitation of ejaculation.