CNR - Institute of Neuroscience CNR
Institute of Neuroscience
 

Project

Central control of erectile function and sexual behaviour: role of neurotransmitters and neuropeptides

Penile erection is the result of a complex interaction between central and peripheral autonomous nervous system, and plays a key role in male copulatory behaviour and reproduction of mammals, including humans. At central level different neurotransmitters and neuropeptides are implied in the control of penile erection. Among them, the best known are dopamine, serotonin, excitatory amino acids, nitric oxide (NO), adrenocorticotropin, oxytocin and opioid peptides. They can facilitate or inhibit penile erection by acting in several brain areas, i.e. the medial preoptic area, the paraventricular nucleus of the hypothalamus (PVN), the hippocampus, the amygdala, the bed nucleus of the stria terminalis, the medulla oblongata and the spinal cord. Many of these areas are interconnected each other by neural pathways, many of which are still unknown. Interestingly the PVN contains the cell bodies of a group of parvocellular oxytocinergic neurons which project to the spinal cord and to other brain areas, such as the ventral tegmenta atrea (VTA), the hippocampus and its regions. Oxytocin injected in these areas not only induces penile erection, but also activates mesolimbic dopaminergic neurons, thought to play a key role in sexual motivation and sexual arousal. The aim of this research project is to identify the neural pathways which at central level interconnect those regulating the anticipatory phase and the consummatory phase of sexual behavior.

 
 

Publications

  • Melis MR, Succu S, Sanna F, Boi A, Argiolas A (2009) Oxytocin injected into the ventral subiculum or the posteromedial cortical nucleus of the amygdala induces penile erection and increases extracellular dopamine levels in the nucleus accumbens of male rats. Eur. J. Neurosci. 30:1349-57.
  • Sanna F, Succu S, Boi A, Melis MR, Argiolas A (2009) Phosphodiesterase type 5 inhibitors facilitate noncontact erections in male rats: site of action in the brain and mechanism of action. 6:2680-9.
  • Succu S, Sanna F, Cocco C, Melis T, Boi A, Ferri GL, Argiolas A, Melis MR (2008) Oxytocin induces penile erection when injected into the ventral tegmental area of male rats: role of nitric oxide and cyclic GMP. Eur. J. Neurosci. 28:813-21.
  • Melis MR, Melis T, Cocco C, Succu S, Sanna F, Pillolla G, Boi A, Ferri GL, Argiolas A (2007) Oxytocin injected into the ventral tegmental area induces penile erection and increases extracellular dopamine in the nucleus accumbens and paraventricular nucleus of the hypothalamus of male rats. Eur. J. Neurosci. 26:1026-35.
  • Succu S, Sanna F, Melis T, Boi A, Argiolas A, Melis MR (2007) Stimulation of dopamine receptors in the paraventricular nucleus of the hypothalamus of male rats induces penile erection and increases extra-cellular dopamine in the nucleus accumbens: Involvement of central oxytocin. Neuropharmacology 52:1034-43.
  • Melis MR, Succu S, Sanna F, Melis T, Mascia MS, Enguehard-Gueiffier C, Hubner H, Gmeiner P, Gueiffier A, Argiolas A (2006) PIP3EA and PD-168077, two selective dopamine D4 receptor agonists, induce penile erection in male rats: site and mechanism of action in the brain. Eur. J. Neurosci. 24:2021-30.
  • Succu S, Mascia MS, Sanna F, Melis T, Argiolas A, Melis MR (2006) The cannabinoid CB1 receptor antagonist SR 141716A induces penile erection by increasing extra-cellular glutamic acid in the paraventricular nucleus of male rats. Behav. Brain Res. 169:274-81.
  • Argiolas A, Melis MR (2005) Central control of penile erection: role of the paraventricular nucleus of the hypothalamus. Prog. Neurobiol. 76:1-21.

 

no PI photo

Antonio Argiolas

Contact information

email  E-mail

email  +39 070 6754318

Participating staff

Maria Rosaria Melis

Salvatora Succa

Fabrizio Sanna