Bidirectional effects of estradiol on the control of water intake in female rats

Jessica Santollo, Andrea A. Edwards, Julia A. Howell, Katherine E. Myers

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


The inhibitory effect of estradiol (E2) on water intake has been recognized for 50 years. Despite a rich literature describing this phenomenon, we report here a previously unidentified dipsogenic effect of E2 during states of low fluid intake. Our initial goal was to test the hypothesis that the anti-dipsogenic effect of E2 on unstimulated water intake is independent of its anorexigenic effect in female rats. In support of this hypothesis, water intake was reduced during estrus, compared to diestrus, when food was present or absent. Water intake was reduced by E2 in ovariectomized rats when food was available, demonstrating a causative role of E2. Surprisingly, however, when food was removed, resulting in a significant reduction in baseline water intake, E2 enhanced drinking. Accordingly, we next tested the effect of E2 on water intake after an acute suppression of intake induced by exendin-4. The initial rebound drinking was greater in E2-treated, compared to Oil-treated, rats. Finally, to reconcile conflicting reports regarding the effect of ovariectomy on water intake, we measured daily water and food intake, and body weight in ovariectomized and sham-operated rats. Predictably, ovariectomy significantly increased food intake and body weight, but only transiently increased water intake. Together these results provide further support for independent effects of E2 on the controls of water and food intake. More importantly, this report of bidirectional effects of E2 on water intake may lead to a paradigm shift, as it challenges the prevailing view that E2 effects on fluid intake are exclusively inhibitory.

Original languageEnglish
Article number104996
JournalHormones and Behavior
StatePublished - Jul 2021

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021


  • Drinking microstructure
  • Estrogens
  • Food intake
  • Ovariectomy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Endocrinology
  • Endocrine and Autonomic Systems
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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