Estrogen receptors α and β mediate different aspects of the facilitatory effects of female cues on male risk taking

Martin Kavaliers, Nino Devidze, Elena Choleris, Melissa Fudge, Jan Åke Gustafsson, Kenneth S. Korach, Donald W. Pfaff, Sonoko Ogawa

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Scopus citations


Male risk taking and decision making are affected by sex-related cues, with men making poorer and riskier decisions in the presence of females and, or their cues. In non-human species, female cues can also increase male risk taking, reducing their responses to predator threat. As estrogen receptors α and β (ERα and ERβ) are involved in the mediation of social and sexual responses, we investigated their roles in determining the effects of female-associated cues on male risk taking. We examined the effects of brief pre-exposure to the odors of either a novel or familiar estrous female on the avoidance of, and aversive responses to, predator threat (cat odor) in ERα and ERβ wild type (αERWT, βERWT) and gene-deleted (knockout, αERKO, βERKO) male mice. Exposure of αERWT and βERWT males to the odors of a novel, but not a familiar, estrous female mouse resulted in enhanced risk taking with the males displaying reduced avoidance of, and analgesic responses to, cat odor. In contrast, αERKO male mice failed to show any changes in risk taking, while βERKO males, although displaying greater risk taking, did not distinguish between novel and familiar females, displaying similarly reduced avoidance responses to cat odor after exposure to either a novel or familiar female odor. These findings indicate that the gene for ERα is associated with the sexual mechanisms (response to estrous female) and the genes for ERβ and ERα with the social (recognition of novel female) mechanisms underlying the effects of female cues on male risk taking.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)634-642
Number of pages9
Issue number5
StatePublished - Jun 2008


  • Anxiety
  • Boldness
  • Decision making
  • Fear
  • Predator odor
  • Sexual motivation
  • Social behavior
  • Social recognition

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Endocrinology
  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Biological Psychiatry
  • Endocrine and Autonomic Systems
  • Psychology(all)


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