Androgen receptors in areas of the spinal cord and brainstem: A study in adult male cats

Rosa L. Coolen*, Jacqueline C. Cambier, Panagiota I. Spantidea, Els van Asselt, Bertil F.M. Blok

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


Sex hormones, including androgens and estrogens, play an important role in autonomic, reproductive and sexual behavior. The areas that are important in these behaviors lie within the spinal cord and brainstem. Relevant dysfunctional behavior in patients with altered androgen availability or androgen receptor sensitivity might be explained by the distribution of androgens and their receptors in the central nervous system. We hypothesize that autonomic dysfunction is correlated with the androgen sensitivity of spinal cord and brainstem areas responsible for autonomic functions. In this study, androgen receptor immunoreactive (AR-IR) nuclei in the spinal cord and brainstem were studied using the androgen receptor antibody PG21 in four uncastrated young adult male cats. A dense distribution of AR-IR nuclei was detected in the superior layers of the dorsal horn, including lamina I. Intensely stained nuclei, but less densely distributed, were found in lamina X and preganglionic sympathetic and parasympathetic cells of the intermediolateral cell column. Areas in the caudal brainstem showing a high density of AR-IR nuclei included the area postrema, the dorsal motor vagus nucleus and the retrotrapezoid nucleus. More cranially, the central linear nucleus in the pons contained a dense distribution of AR-IR nuclei. The mesencephalic periaqueductal gray (PAG) showed a dense distribution of AR-IR nuclei apart from the most central part of the PAG directly adjacent to the ependymal lining. Other areas in the mesencephalon with a dense distribution of AR-IR nuclei were the dorsal raphe nucleus, the retrorubral nucleus, the substantia nigra and the ventral tegmental area of Tsai. It is concluded that AR-IR nuclei are located in specific areas of the central nervous system that are involved in the control of sensory function and autonomic behavior. Furthermore, damage of these AR-IR areas might explain related dysfunction in humans.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)125-135
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Anatomy
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We thank Dr. Gail S. Prins for her generous donation of the PG21 anti-androgen receptor antibody. We also thank Dr. Jos Th. P. W. van Maarseveen for the NL2EPS Converter program that he wrote. We are grateful to Mr. P. van der Syde for photographic assistance, and Mr. K. van Linschoten and Ms. E. Meijer for their histotechnical work (Department of Human Movement Sciences, Faculty of Medical Sciences Groningen).

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 The Authors. Journal of Anatomy published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd on behalf of Anatomical Society


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