Communications Biology

Volume: 4, Issue: 1, pp 10, 2021 DOI: 10.1038/S42003-020-01570-4

Susana Valente, Tiago Marques, Susana Q. Lima


In many species, ejaculation is followed by a state of decreased sexual activity, the post-ejaculatory refractory period. Several lines of evidence have suggested prolactin, a pituitary hormone released around the time of ejaculation in humans and other animals, to be a decisive player in the establishment of the refractory period. However, data supporting this hypothesis is controversial. We took advantage of two different strains of house mouse, a wild derived and a classical laboratory strain that differ substantially in their sexual performance, to investigate prolactin’s involvement in sexual activity and the refractory period. First, we show that there is prolactin release during sexual behavior in male mice. Second, using a pharmacological approach, we show that acute manipulations of prolactin levels, either mimicking the natural release during sexual behavior or inhibiting its occurrence, do not affect sexual activity or shorten the refractory period, respectively. Therefore, we show compelling evidence refuting the idea that prolactin released during copulation is involved in the establishment of the refractory period, a long-standing hypothesis in the field of behavioral endocrinology.