© 2019 Sharma et al. Oxytocin is involved in the regulation of social behaviors including parental behaviors in a variety of species. Oxytocin triggers social behaviors by binding to oxytocin receptors (OXTRs) in various parts of the brain. OXTRs are present in the preoptic area (POA) where hormone-sensitive sexually dimorphic nuclei exist. The present study was conducted to examine whether sex differences exist in the distribution of neurons expressing OXTRs in the POA. Using OXTR-Venus (an enhanced variant of yellow fluorescent protein) mice, the distribution of OXTR-Venus cells in the POA was compared between sexes. The total number of OXTR-Venus cells in the medial POA (MPOA) was significantly greater in females than in males. No detectable OXTR-Venus cells were observed in the anteroventral periventricular nucleus (AVPV) within the MPOA in most of the brain sections from males. We further examined the total number of OXTR-Venus cells in the AVPV and the rest of the MPOA between the sexes. The total number of OXTR-Venus cells in the AVPV in females (615 ± 43) was significantly greater than that in males (14 ± 2), whereas the total number of OXTRVenus cells in the rest of the MPOA did not differ significantly between the sexes. Thus, the sexually dimorphic expression of OXTR-Venus specifically occurred in the AVPV, but not in the rest of the MPOA. We also examined whether the expression of OXTR in the AVPV is driven by the female gonadal hormone, estrogen. Immunocytochemistry and single-cell RTPCR revealed the presence of the estrogen receptor α in OXTR-Venus cells in the female AVPV. Moreover, ovariectomy resulted in the absence of OXTR-Venus expression in the AVPV, whereas estrogen replacement therapy restored OXTR-Venus expression. These results demonstrate that the expression of OXTR in the AVPV is primarily female specific and estrogen dependent. The presence of the sexually dimorphic expression of OXTR in the AVPV suggests the involvement of OXTR neurons in the AVPV in the regulation of female-specific behavior and/or physiology.
Publication Source (Journal or Book title)
Sharma, K., LeBlanc, R., Haque, M., Nishimori, K., Reid, M., & Teruyama, R. (2019). Sexually dimorphic oxytocin receptorexpressing neurons in the preoptic area of the mouse brain. PLoS ONE, 14 (7) https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0219784