The medial preoptic area (mPOA) of the hypothalamus is sexually dimorphic and controls sexually dimorphic display of male mating and parental care. Yet, despite extensive characterization of sex differences in the mPOA, we know surprisingly little about whether or how male and female mPOA neurons differ electrophysiologically, which relate more directly to neuronal firing and behavioral pattern generation. In this study, we performed whole-cell patch clamp recordings of the mPOA in acute brain slices cut from virgin adult mice, and compared in total 29 electrophysiological parameters between male and female mPOA neurons. We find that resting membrane potential (Vm), input resistance (Rm), time constant (τm), threshold (Vth) and minimum current (rheobase) required to generate an action potential differ significantly between male and female in a cell-type dependent manner. Nonetheless, there is little evidence for profuse sex differences in neuronal excitability, except for a higher probability of rebound neurons in males. Depletion of male gonadal hormones in adulthood partially de-masculinizes sexually dimorphic electrophysiological parameters, suggesting that some of these sex differences may establish during development. Furthermore, as a demonstration of the behavioral relevance of these sex differences, we show that pharmacologic blockage of currents mediated by T-type Ca2+ channel, which underlie rebound and tends to be larger in male mPOA neurons, result in behavioral deficits in male mating. In summary, we have identified key sex differences in electrophysiological properties of mPOA neurons that likely contribute to sexually dimorphic display of behaviors.
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