Developmental expression of sexual differences in open-field behaviour and plasma cholinesterase activity in male, female and masculinized female rats
Sexual differences in behaviour and metabolism are well recognized. While some of these differences are related to testosterone exposure during neonatal life, others do not depend on the organizational action of androgens during early development. The objective of the following experiments was to study the development of sexual differences in plasma cholinesterase activity and to determine if these differences were related to testosterone exposure postnatally. Open-field activity was also recorded as a behavioral indicator of the actions of testosterone on sexual differentiation of the central nervous system. Three treatment groups of animals were used: normal male, normal female, and masculinized female rats (1 mg testosterone, SC, on day 2 of postnatal life). Open-field behaviour was measured on three consecutive days just after weaning (21 -23 days of age), in association with the onset of puberty (30 - 36 days of age), or as adults (90 - 110 days of age); plasma cholinesterase activity was measured at 22, 30 - 36, and 90 - 110 days of age. As expected a sex difference in open-field activity was found between normal males and females. Postnatal androgen treatment in females decreased open-field activity in adulthood to levels similar to those found in normal males. Similar differences were observed just after weaning, but not at 30-36 days of age. In contrast, significant differences in cholinesterase activity were observed in adult animals, but not at days 22 and 30 - 33 of age. Masculinized female rats showed no differences in plasma cholinesterase activity when compared to normal female rats, both groups differing from males. These data suggest that sexual differences in plasma cholinesterase activity in adult rats, unlike differences in open-field behaviour, are not dependent on testosterone exposure during postnatal life. In addition, the results have shown that under stress (weaning) sex differences in open-field behaviour can be observed as early as at 21 -23 days of age.
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