Intrauterine position affects motoneuron number and muscle size in a sexually dimorphic neuromuscular system
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The intrauterine position occupied by a rodent fetus influences the amount of testosterone to which it is exposed before birth. Animals that are gestated between two male fetuses (2M) are exposed to higher circulating levels of testosterone than are animals positioned between two female fetuses (2F) and there are reliable differences in the reproductive physiology and behavior of 2M and 2F animals when adult. To determine whether intrauterine position modifies development of the central nervous system, we examined the sexually dimorphic spinal nucleus of the bulbocavernosus (SNB) in male and female gerbils from known intrauterine positions. We found that adult 2M female gerbils had 16% more SNB motoneurons than did 2F females. 2M males did not differ from 2F males in SNB motoneuron number, but the bulbocavernosus muscle, which is innervated by SNB motoneurons, was approximately 50% larger in 2M than in 2F males. These data indicate that intrauterine position can influence the morphology of the sexually dimorphic SNB neuromuscular system.
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