Progesterone receptors mediate male aggression toward infants

Johanna S. Schneider, Marielle K. Stone, Katherine E. Wynne-Edwards, Teresa H. Horton, John Lydon, Bert O'Malley, Jon E. Levine*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

90 Scopus citations


Neuroendocrine mechanisms that mediate male aggression toward infants are poorly understood. Although testosterone is known to enhance aggression in other social contexts, evidence that it modulates aggression toward infants is equivocal. We have found that male progesterone receptor knockout (PRKO) mice exhibit no infanticidal behavior and little aggression toward young. Male PRKO mice also display significantly enhanced parental behaviors. In wild-type mice, blockade of PR induces a behavioral phenotype similar to that of the PRKO males, whereas progesterone exacerbates aggressive tendencies toward infants. Aggressive behaviors directed toward adult males, by contrast, are unaffected by progesterone, PR antagonism, or PR gene deletion. Previously thought to be of diminished importance in male animals, PRs play a critical and specific role in modulating infantdirected behaviors in male mice.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2951-2956
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number5
StatePublished - Mar 4 2003

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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