Excessive diversion of metabolic fuels away from oxidation and into adipose tissue storage depots, such as underfeeding or extraordinary levels of energy expenditure, can induce nutritional infertility. Treatment with pharmacological doses of insulin reduces metabolic fuel availability and suppresses both ovulatory cyclicity and pulsatile luteinizing hormone release in females of several mammalian species, but little attention has been paid to the effects of insulin treatments on reproductive behaviors. Ovariectomized Syrian hamsters were injected with long-acting insulin every 12 h for 72 h and were prevented from overeating by limiting their intake to ∼110% of pretreatment levels. When given estradiol and progesterone, insulin-treated hamsters exhibited significantly reduced levels of sexual receptivity compared with saline-treated controls. This insulin-induced inhibition of estrous behavior was prevented by lesions of the area postrema. Insulin treatments also caused changes in the number of detectable estrogen receptor immunoreactive cells in the hypothalamus and preoptic area. Therefore, insulin-induced repartitioning of metabolic fuels induces changes in estrous behavior and neural estrogen receptors that are indistinguishable from those caused by food deprivation, cold exposure, or treatment with metabolic inhibitors.
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