A new role for GABAergic transmission in the control of male rat sexual behavior expression (2016)

Behavioural Brain Research

Available online 28 November 2016


•GABAA receptors differentially regulate copulation depending on the sexual condition.

•Systemic bicuculline reverses sexual satiety, but lacks an effect in sexually active male rats.

•Intra-VTA bicuculline induces copulation in sexually satiated male rats.

•GABA controls male rat sexual behavior responding at the VTA


GABAergic transmission in the ventral tegmental area (VTA) exerts a tonic inhibitory influence on mesolimbic dopaminergic neurons’ activity. Blockade of VTA GABAA receptors increases dopamine release in the nucleus accumbens (NAcc). Increases in NAcc dopamine levels typically accompany sexual behavior display. Copulation to satiety is characterized by the instatement of a long lasting (72 h) sexual behavior inhibition and the mesolimbic system appears to be involved in this phenomenon. GABAergic transmission in the VTA might play a role in the maintenance of this long lasting sexual inhibitory state. To test this hypothesis, in the present work we investigated the effect of GABAA receptor blockade in sexually exhausted males 24 h after copulation to satiety, once the sexual inhibitory state is established, and compared it with its effect in sexually experienced rats. Results showed that low doses of systemically administered bicuculline induced sexual behavior expression in sexually exhausted rats, but lacked an effect on copulation of sexually experienced animals. Intra-VTA bilateral infusion of bicuculline did not modify sexual behavior of sexually experienced rats, but induced sexual behavior expression in all the sexually exhausted males. Hence, GABA plays a role in the control of sexual behavior expression at the VTA. The role played by GABAergic transmission in male sexual behavior expression of animals with distinct sexual behavior conditions is discussed.


  • GABAA receptors;
  • bicuculline;
  • VTA;
  • sexual inhibition;
  • sexual satiety;
  • male sexual behavior;
  • mesolimbic system;
  • sexual responding