Estrogen Deficient Male Mice Develop Compulsive Behavior

Rachel A. Hill, Kerry J. McInnes, Emily C. H. Gong, Margaret E Jones, Evan R. Simpson, Wah Chin Boon

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BACKGROUND: Aromatase converts androgen to estrogen. Thus, the aromatase knockout (ArKO) mouse is estrogen deficient. We investigated the compulsive behaviors of these animals and the protein levels of catechol-O-methyltransferase (COMT) in frontal cortex, hypothalamus and liver. METHODS: Grooming was analyzed during the 20-min period immediately following a water-mist spray. Running wheel activity over two consecutive nights and barbering were analyzed. COMT protein levels were measured by Western analysis. RESULTS: Six-month old male but not female ArKO mice develop compulsive behaviors such as excessive barbering, grooming and wheel-running. Excessive activities were reversed by 3 weeks of 17beta-estradiol replacement. Interestingly, the presentation of compulsive behaviors is accompanied by concomitant decreases (p <.05) in hypothalamic COMT protein levels in male ArKO mice. These values returned to normal upon 17beta-estradiol treatment. In contrast, hepatic and frontal cortex COMT levels were not affected by the estrogen status, indicating region- and tissue-specific regulation of COMT levels by estrogen. No differences in COMT levels were detectable between female animals of both genotypes. CONCLUSIONS: This study describes the novel observation of a possible link between estrogen, COMT and development of compulsive behaviors in male animals which may have therapeutic implications in obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) patients.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)359-366
Number of pages8
JournalBiological Psychiatry
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2007

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