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Elimination of raphe oxytocin receptor expression: effects on maternal behavior, aggression and serotoninergic fibers and implications for sex differences in oxytocin-serotonin interactions

Wednesday, November 06, 2013 — Poster Session I

4:00 p.m. – 6:00 p.m.

FAES Academic Center (Upper-Level Terrace)




  • S. K. Williams
  • J. H. Pagani
  • W. S. Young III


Oxytocin (Oxt) and serotonin (5-HT) are important contributors to aggression and parental care. Oxt receptors (Oxtr) are expressed on 5-HT neurons of the raphe nuclei (RN), suggesting a direct role for Oxt to modulate 5-HT dependent behaviors. Mice with the Oxtr gene flanked by LoxP sites were crossed with mice expressing Cre recombinase under the 5-HT transporter promoter. The resulting offspring lacked expression of Oxtr specifically in the RN (RN Oxtr KO). Adult female mice were tested to measure anxiety, pup retrieval behavior and maternal aggression. Females were tested for olfactory habituation, and then 5-HT fiber distribution was investigated. Female RN Oxtr KO mice did not differ in tests of anxiety, maternal retrieval, maternal aggression or olfactory ability. Additionally, RN Oxtr KO 5-HT fiber projection distribution was unaltered. The selective elimination of Oxt actions upon 5-HT cells and/or axons does not affect anxiety or maternal behaviors, unlike in situations of more global eliminations of Oxt or Oxtr. These results contrast the large reduction in aggression in RN Oxtr KO males. This contrast may represent an important sex difference in the interaction of Oxt and 5-HT signaling. This interaction may be important in neurodevelopmental disorders such as autism spectrum disorders.

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