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  Student Research Symposium Oct 2006  
  Comparison of Sexual Differentiation of a Sexually Dimorphic Spinal Motor Pool

in Three Strains of Rats

S. Walley, K. Zahller, A. Wilson, R. Craft*, and C. Ulibarri, Integrative Physiology and Neuroscience (IPN), *Dept of Psych, College of Veterinary Medicine, Pullman WA 99164-6520.

This research tested the hypothesis that genotype will influence sexual differentiation of the sexual dimorphic motor pool, the spinal nucleus of the bulbocavernosus (SNB).  The SNB innervates the bulbocavernosus, the levator ani, and the anal sphincter muscles. The SNB is an example of a sexually dimorphic structure in the CNS.  The SNB is located on the dorsal-lateral aspect of the ventral funiculus at the lumbosacral transition zone of the spinal cord.  Genotype is suggested to play a role in SNB characteristics.  However, no research has been conducted comparing strain differences of the SNB in rats. Rat strains such as F344, Long Evans, and Sprague Dawley show differences in reproductive behavior, so it is likely that these rat strains will show differences in their neuroananatomy such as the SNB.  Also, sexual dimorphisms in the CNS generated in response to early exposure to androgens and/or adulthood gonadal steroids have been reported. Therefore offspring of F344 albino rats, Long Evans outbred pigmented rats, and Sprague Dawley outbred albino rats were assigned same-strain breeding pairs. When pups were born they were assigned to one of five groups (male neonatal gonadectomy, male neonatal sham gonadectomy, neonatal females injected with 100 g testosterone, neonatal females injected with 1000 g testosterone, or neonatal females injected with oil as control). As adults, rats were anesthetized, castrated if necessary, and implanted with either testosterone or empty capsules. Four weeks later rats were anesthetized, perfused, and their spinal cords removed.  After removal, spinal cords were imbedded, frozen, coronally sectioned, and mounted onto gelatin-chrom-alum coated slides and allowed to air dry.  They were then processed for Nissl staining.  Slides were coded so they could be examined without knowledge of treatment.  The slides were examined by two independent observers using light microscopy.  SNB motoneurons were identified, counted, and measured.  Differences across groups were determined by analyses of variance.

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