Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Biology behind homosexuality in sheep, study confirms

09.03.2004


OHSU researchers show brain anatomy, hormone production may be cause



Researchers in the Oregon Health & Science University School of Medicine have confirmed that a male sheep’s preference for same-sex partners has biological underpinnings.

A study published in the February issue of the journal Endocrinology demonstrates that not only are certain groups of cells different between genders in a part of the sheep brain controlling sexual behavior, but brain anatomy and hormone production may determine whether adult rams prefer other rams over ewes.


"This particular study, along with others, strongly suggests that sexual preference is biologically determined in animals, and possibly in humans," said the study’s lead author, Charles E. Roselli, Ph.D., professor in the Department of Physiology and Pharmacology, OHSU School of Medicine. "The hope is that the study of these brain differences will provide clues to the processes involved in the development and regulation of heterosexual, as well as homosexual, behavior."

The results lend credence to previous studies in humans that described anatomical differences between the brains of heterosexual men and homosexual men, as well as sexually unique versions of the same cluster of brain cells in males and females.

"Same-sex attraction is widespread across many different species." said Roselli, whose laboratory collaborated with the Department of Animal Sciences at Oregon State University and the USDA Agricultural Research Service’s U.S. Sheep Experiment Station in Dubois, Idaho.

Kay Larkin, Ph.D., an OHSU electron microscopist who performed laboratory analysis for the study, said scientists now have a marker that points to whether a ram may prefer other rams over ewes.

"There’s a difference in the brain that is correlated with partner preference rather than gender of the animal you’re looking at," she said.

About 8 percent of domestic rams display preferences for other males as sexual partners. Scientists don’t believe it’s related to dominance or flock hierarchy; rather, their typical motor pattern for intercourse is merely directed at rams instead of ewes.

"They’re one of the few species that have been systematically studied, so we’re able to do very careful and controlled experiments on sheep," Roselli said. "We used rams that had consistently shown exclusive sexual preference for other rams when they were given a choice between rams and ewes."

The study examined 27 adult, 4-year-old sheep of mixed Western breeds reared at the U.S. Sheep Experiment Station. They included eight male sheep exhibiting a female mate preference – female-oriented rams – nine male-oriented rams and 10 ewes.

OHSU researchers discovered an irregularly shaped, densely packed cluster of nerve cells in the hypothalamus of the sheep brain, which they named the ovine sexually dimorphic nucleus or oSDN because it is a different size in rams than in ewes. The hypothalamus is the part of the brain that controls metabolic activities and reproductive functions.

The oSDN in rams that preferred females was "significantly" larger and contained more neurons than in male-oriented rams and ewes. In addition, the oSDN of the female-oriented rams expressed higher levels of aromatase, a substance that converts testosterone to estradiol so the androgen hormone can facilitate typical male sexual behaviors. Aromatase expression was no different between male-oriented rams and ewes.

The study was the first to demonstrate an association between natural variations in sexual partner preferences and brain structure in nonhuman animals.

The Endocrinology study is part of a five-year, OHSU-led effort funded through 2008 by the National Center for Research Resources, a component of the National Institutes of Health. Scientists will work to further characterize the rams’ behavior and study when during development these differences arise. "We do have some evidence the nucleus is sexually dimorphic in late gestation," Roselli said.

They would also like to know whether sexual preferences can be altered by manipulating the prenatal hormone environment, such as by using drugs to prevent the actions of androgen in the fetal sheep brain.

In collaboration with geneticists at UCLA, Roselli has begun to study possible differences in gene expression between brains of male-oriented and female-oriented rams.

Jonathan Modie | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.ohsu.edu/
http://www.ohsu.edu/news/

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht No chance for house dust mites
06.05.2015 | Hohenstein Institute

nachricht Expedition Genomics Lab: the mobile revolution in genetic analysis
06.05.2015 | MUSE Museo delle Scienze

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: The random raman laser: A new light source for the microcosmos

Texas A&M University researchers demonstrate how a narrow-band strobe light source for speckle-free imaging has the potential to reveal microscopic forms of life

In modern microscope imaging techniques, lasers are used as light sources because they can deliver fast pulsed and extremely high-intensity radiation to a...

Im Focus: Pulsar with widest orbit ever detected

Discovered by high school research team

A team of highly determined high school students discovered a never-before-seen pulsar by painstakingly analyzing data from the National Science Foundation's...

Im Focus: Erosion, landslides and monsoon across the Himalaya

Scientists from Nepal, Switzerland and Germany was now able to show how erosion processes caused by the monsoon are mirrored in the sediment load of a river crossing the Himalaya.

In these days, it was again tragically demonstrated that the Himalayas are one of the most active geodynamic regions of the world. Landslides belong to the...

Im Focus: Through the galaxy by taxi - The Dream Chaser Space Utility Vehicle

A world-class prime systems integrator and electronic systems provider known for its rapid, innovative, and agile technology solutions, Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC) is currently developing a new space transportation system called the Dream Chaser.

The ultimate aim is to construct a multi-mission-capable space utility vehicle, while accelerating the overall development process for this critical capability...

Im Focus: High-tech textiles – more than just clothes

Today, textiles are used for more than just clothes or bags – they are high tech materials for high-tech applications. High-tech textiles must fulfill a number of functions and meet many requirements. That is why the Fraunhofer Institute for Silicate Research ISC dedicated some major developing work to this most intriguing research area. The result can now be seen at Techtextil trade show in Frankfurt from 4 to 7 May. On display will be novel textile-integrated sensors, a unique multifunctional coating system for textiles and fibers, and textile processing of glass, carbon, and ceramics fibers to fiber preforms.

Thin materials and new kinds of sensors now make it possible to integrate silicone elastomer sensors in textiles. They are suitable for applications in medical...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Green Summit 2015: the summit of the essential

05.05.2015 | Event News

HHL Energy Conference on May 11/12, 2015: Students Discuss about Decentralized Energy

23.04.2015 | Event News

“Developing our cities, preserving our planet”: Nobel Laureates gather for the first time in Asia

23.04.2015 | Event News

 
Latest News

Two Activists in the Field of Energy Efficiency Awarded Swedish Sustainability Award

06.05.2015 | Awards Funding

Stanford researchers observe the moment when a mind is changed

06.05.2015 | Health and Medicine

U of T astrophysicists offer proof that famous image shows forming planets

06.05.2015 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>