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Lesions of spinothalamic neurons in lumbar spinal cord disrupt ejaculatory reflexes in male rats

Truitt WA, McKenna KE, Coolen LM (2002) Lesions of spinothalamic neurons in lumbar spinal cord disrupt ejaculatory reflexes in male rats. Neuroscience 2002 Abstracts 69.2. Society for Neuroscience, Orlando, FL.

Summary: Previously we tested the significance of a population of lumbar spinothalamic (LUST) cells for male sexual behavior in rats. Anatomically, LUST cells are positioned to relay ejaculation-related sensory signals from reproductive organs to the brain and express substance P receptors as well as several neuropeptides including galanin. Ablation of LUST neurons by the selective toxin SSP-saporin resulted in a complete disruption of ejaculatory behavior. These results suggested that LUST cells play a pivotal role in generation of ejaculatory behavior and may be part of a spinal ejaculation generator. To test this hypothesis, we investigated ejaculatory reflexes in male rats with LUST lesions, using the urethrogenital reflex model. SSP-saporin (4 ng/┬Ál) was injected bilaterally into L3-L4 region in sexually experienced male Sprague Dawley rats. Ten days following surgery, animals were deeply anesthetized and spinal cords were transected at upper thoracic levels. Next, urethral stimulation was provided and muscle contractions were recorded in the bulbocavernous muscle (BCM). Following the experiment, animals were sacrificed and lesions were confirmed using immunostaining for galanin, a marker for LUST cells. In non-lesioned animals (n=5), urethral stimulation produced stereotypical reflex contraction of the BCM, and penile reflexes were observed. In contrast, in animals with complete lesions of LUST cells (n=5) the urogenital reflex was severely attenuated. These results indicate that LUST cells are involved in control of ejaculatory reflexes and are part of a spinal ejaculation generator. Supported by: NIH R01 MH60781(LMC)

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