In addition to food intake and energy balance regulation, ghrelin mediate the rewarding and motivational properties of palatable food as well as addictive drugs. The ability of ghrelin to regulate reinforcement involves the cholinergic-dopaminergic reward link, which encompasses a cholinergic projection from the laterodorsal tegmental area (LDTg) to the ventral tegmental area (VTA) together with mesolimbic dopaminergic projections from the VTA to the nucleus accumbens (NAc). Recently, systemic ghrelin was shown to regulate sexual behavior and motivation in male mice via dopamine neurotransmission. The present study therefore elucidates the role of ghrelin and ghrelin receptor (GHS-R1A) antagonist treatment within NAc, VTA or LDTg for sexual behavior in sexually naïve male mice. Local administration of the GHSR-1A antagonist, JMV2959, into the VTA or LDTg was found to reduce the preference for female mice, the number of mounts and the duration of mounting as well as to prolong the latency to mount. This was further substantiated by the findings that ghrelin administration into the VTA or LDTg increased the number of mounts and the duration of mounting and decreased the latency to mount. Moreover, ghrelin administered into the LDTg increased the preference for female mice. Accumbal administration of ghrelin increased whereas GHS-R1A antagonist decreased the intake of palatable food, but did not alter sexual behavior. In males exposed to sexual interaction, systemic administration of ghrelin increases whereas JMV2959 decreases the turnover of dopamine in the VTA. These data suggest that ghrelin signaling within the tegmental areas is required for sexual behavior in sexually naïve male mice.
Prieto-Garcia, L., Egecioglu, E., Studer, E., Westberg, L., & Jerlhag, E. (2015). Ghrelin and GHS-R1A signaling within the ventral and laterodorsal tegmental area regulate sexual behavior in sexually naïve male mice. Psychoneuroendocrinology, 62, 392–402. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.psyneuen.2015.09.009