Estradiol transfer from male big brown bats (Eptesicus fuscus) to the reproductive and brain tissues of cohabiting females, and its action as a pheromone
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The powerful estrogen, 17β-estradiol, has been found to pass from male excretions to the reproductive organs, brain, and other tissues of cohabiting females in laboratory mice. The current studies were designed to examine whether this phenomenon also occurs in big brown bats (Eptesicus fuscus), a mammal appropriate for testing cross-species generality because of its phylogenetic distance from mice. When tritiated estradiol ((3)H-E2) was administered directly on the nasal area of adult female bats, radioactivity was reliably observed in the uterus and ovaries, and also in the brain and other tissues. When (3)H-E2 was applied to the skin, radioactivity was observed in reproductive and other peripheral tissues. We injected male bats with minute quantities of (3)H-E2 and housed each of them directly with groups of adult females for 48h. We then measured radioactivity in male and female bat tissues. In each of several replications of one male housed with three females, radioactivity was reliably observed in the uterus of all females, and in many other tissues in almost every female. Measurement in the organs of males directly exposed to (3)H-E2 showed high levels of radioactivity in the testes and especially the epididymides. These data indicate that estradiol is transferred from males to females, likely via absorptions from males' excretions and potentially also via intravaginal exposure during mating. Given the potency of estradiol in regulating female reproductive physiology and behavior, our data strongly suggest the potential for pheromonal action whereby male mammals induce sexual receptivity and ovulation in females.
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