[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The vasopressin 1b receptor (Avpr1b) is critical for social memory and social aggression in rodents, yet little is known about its specific roles in these behaviors. Some clues to Avpr1b function can be gained from its profile of expression in the brain, which is largely limited to the pyramidal neurons of the CA2 region of the hippocampus, and from experiments showing that inactivation of the gene or antagonism of the receptor leads to a reduction in social aggression. Here we show that partial replacement of the Avpr1b through lentiviral delivery into the dorsal CA2 region restored the probability of socially motivated attack behavior in total Avpr1b knockout mice, without altering anxiety-like behaviors. To further explore the role of the Avpr1b in this hippocampal region, we examined the effects of Avpr1b agonists on pyramidal neurons in mouse and rat hippocampal slices. We found that selective Avpr1b agonists induced significant potentiation of excitatory synaptic responses in CA2, but not in CA1 or in slices from Avpr1b knockout mice. In a way that is mechanistically very similar to synaptic potentiation induced by oxytocin, Avpr1b agonist-induced potentiation of CA2 synapses relies on NMDA (N-methyl-D-aspartic acid) receptor activation, calcium and calcium/calmodulin-dependent protein kinase II activity, but not on cAMP-dependent protein kinase activity or presynaptic mechanisms. Our data indicate that the hippocampal CA2 is important for attacking in response to a male intruder and that the Avpr1b, likely through its role in regulating CA2 synaptic plasticity, is a necessary mediator.Molecular Psychiatry advance online publication, 27 May 2014; doi:10.1038/mp.2014.47.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Oxytocin (Oxt), produced in the hypothalamic paraventricular (PVN) and supraoptic nuclei (SON) for transport to and release from the posterior pituitary, was originally discovered through its role in lactation and parturition. Oxt also plays important roles in the central nervous system by influencing various behaviors. MicroRNAs (miRNAs), endogenous regulators of many genes, are a class of small noncoding RNAs that mediate post-transcriptional gene silencing. We performed miRNA expression profiling of the mouse hypothalamus by deep sequencing. Among the sequenced and cross-mapped small RNAs, expression of known miRNAs and unknown miRNAs candidates were analyzed. We investigated in detail one miRNA, miR-24, and found that it is a novel regulator of Oxt and controls both transcript and peptide levels of Oxt. These results provide insights into potential neurohypophysial hormone regulation mediated by miRNAs. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.
Journal of Neurochemistry 05/2013; · 4.24 Impact Factor
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are endogenous non-coding RNAs that play critical roles in regulating transcription in eukaryotes. miRNAs are involved in a wide-range of biological processes. Because miRNA research is relatively new, it is not surprising that tools and techniques to study their biology are still being developed. Our laboratory is interested in carefully delineating the in vivo expression patterns between three closely related miR-7 miRNA family members in the mouse. The miR-7 family of miRNAs is conserved between humans and invertebrates. The miR-7 family also shows conserved expression in neural tissues, and members of this family are involved in the development of sensory structures in flies, associated with many types of cancer, and likely play a role in osmoregulation in the mouse brain. In this study, we used multiple methods to differentiate the expression of the miR-7 family members in the mouse brain. Our results suggest that although there are useful tools for exploring miRNA expression in vivo, better tools and/or methods are still needed for thorough in vivo studies of closely related family members.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Estrogen uses two mechanisms to exert its effect on the skeleton: it inhibits bone resorption by osteoclasts and, at higher doses, can stimulate bone formation. Although the antiresorptive action of estrogen arises from the inhibition of the MAPK JNK, the mechanism of its effect on the osteoblast remains unclear. Here, we report that the anabolic action of estrogen in mice occurs, at least in part, through oxytocin (OT) produced by osteoblasts in bone marrow. We show that the absence of OT receptors (OTRs) in OTR(-/-) osteoblasts or attenuation of OTR expression in silenced cells inhibits estrogen-induced osteoblast differentiation, transcription factor up-regulation, and/or OT production in vitro. In vivo, OTR(-/-) mice, known to have a bone formation defect, fail to display increases in trabecular bone volume, cortical thickness, and bone formation in response to estrogen. Furthermore, osteoblast-specific Col2.3-Cre(+)/OTR(fl/fl) mice, but not TRAP-Cre(+)/OTR(fl/fl) mice, mimic the OTR(-/-) phenotype and also fail to respond to estrogen. These data attribute the phenotype of OTR deficiency to an osteoblastic rather than an osteoclastic defect. Physiologically, feed-forward OT release in bone marrow by a rising estrogen concentration may facilitate rapid skeletal recovery during the latter phases of lactation.
Journal of Biological Chemistry 07/2012; 287(34):29159-67. · 4.60 Impact Factor
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: A wealth of studies has implicated oxytocin (Oxt) and its receptors (Oxtr) in the mediation of social behaviors and social memory in rodents. It has been suggested that failures in this system contribute to deficits in social interaction that characterize autism spectrum disorders (ASD). In the current analyses, we investigated the expression of autism-related behaviors in mice that lack the ability to synthesize the oxytocin receptor itself, Oxtr knockout (KO) mice, as compared to their wild-type (WT) littermates. In the visible burrow system, Oxtr KO mice showed robust reductions in frontal approach, huddling, allo-grooming, and flight, with more time spent alone, and in self-grooming, as compared to WT. These results were corroborated in the three-chambered test: unlike WT, Oxtr KO mice failed to spend more time in the side of the test box containing an unfamiliar CD-1 mouse. In the social proximity test, Oxtr KO mice showed clear reductions in nose to nose and anogenital sniff behaviors oriented to an unfamiliar C57BL/6J (B6) mouse. In addition, our study revealed no differences between Oxtr WT and KO genotypes in the occurrence of motor and cognitive stereotyped behaviors. A significant genotype effect was found in the scent marking analysis, with Oxtr KO mice showing a decreased number of scent marks, as compared to WT. Overall, the present data indicate that the profile for Oxtr KO mice, including consistent social deficits, and reduced levels of communication, models multiple components of the ASD phenotype. This article is part of a Special Issue entitled Oxytocin, Vasopressin, and Social Behavior.
Hormones and Behavior 11/2011; 61(3):436-44. · 4.51 Impact Factor
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Research suggests that dysfunctional glutamatergic signalling may contribute to depression, a debilitating mood disorder affecting millions of individuals worldwide. Ketamine, a N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) receptor antagonist, exerts rapid antidepressant effects in approximately 70% of patients. Glutamate evokes the release of D-serine from astrocytes and neurons, which then acts as a co-agonist and binds at the glycine site on the NR1 subunit of NMDA receptors. Several studies have implicated glial deficits as one of the underlying facets of the neurobiology of depression. The present study tested the hypothesis that D-serine modulates behaviours related to depression. The behavioural effects of a single, acute D-serine administration were examined in several rodent tests of antidepressant-like effects, including the forced swim test (FST), the female urine sniffing test (FUST) following serotonin depletion, and the learned helplessness (LH) paradigm. D-serine significantly reduced immobility in the FST without affecting general motor function. Both D-serine and ketamine significantly rescued sexual reward-seeking deficits caused by serotonin depletion in the FUST. Finally, D-serine reversed LH behaviour, as measured by escape latency, number of escapes, and percentage of mice developing LH. Mice lacking NR1 expression in forebrain excitatory neurons exhibited a depression-like phenotype in the same behavioural tests, and did not respond to D-serine treatment. These findings suggest that D-serine produces antidepressant-like effects and support the notion of complex glutamatergic dysfunction in depression. It is unclear whether D-serine has a convergent influence on downstream synaptic plasticity cascades that may yield a similar therapeutic profile to NMDA antagonists like ketamine.
The International Journal of Neuropsychopharmacology 09/2011; 15(8):1135-48. · 5.64 Impact Factor
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The number of studies of the nervous system using transgenic mice has grown explosively over the past decade, presenting a
wide spectrum of approaches. Transgenic mice have been used to model human disease, to understand physiologic roles of genes,
and to understand the regulation of genes (1). For example, transgenes composed of a gene’s promoter directing expression
of a reporter gene such as beta-galactosidase may be used to follow expression of a gene during development (2), after various
mutations are made in the promoter region to look for cell or regulatory specificity (3), and to study various physiological
states (4). Regulatory studies may also use reporters (e.g., green fluorescent protein) that allow for real-time measurement
of activity, either in vivo or in various tissue preparations, that is precluded by difficulties in assaying the promoter’s natural gene product. Transgenic
mice may also be used to perturb a particular system by overexpressing a gene or by reducing the gene’s expression and/or
effectiveness through antisense or dominant negative expression (5). Transgenic expression of certain products, such as tumor
promoters or fluorescent substances, may allow for the isolation of immortalized and homogeneous cells for further study (6,7).
Finally, transgenic mice may be used in the attempt to correct defects in mutant mice, either those found accidentally or
those produced through homologous recombination or random mutagenesis (8).
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Oxytocin (Oxt) and vasopressin (Avp) are important for a wide variety of behaviors and the use of transgenic mice lacking the peptides or their receptors, particularly when their loss is spatially and temporally manipulated, offers an opportunity to closely examine their role in a particular behavior. We used a cued fear conditioning paradigm to examine associative learning in three lines of transgenic mice: mice that constitutively lack vasopressin 1a (Avpr1a(-/-)) or Oxt receptors (Oxtr(-/-)) and mice that have Oxt receptor loss restricted to the forebrain that begins postweaning (Oxtr(FB/FB)). Oxtr(-/-) and Avpr1a(-/-) mice have normal conditioned freezing. Oxtr(FB/FB) mice have a reduction in freezing behavior during acquisition, as well as during context and cue retention. In addition to reduction of Oxtr in the central nucleus of the amygdala, in vitro receptor autoradiography showed that the Oxtr(FB/FB) mice have significantly reduced levels of Avpr1a only in that structure. Our results show that postweaning alteration of the distribution of Oxtr receptors is critically important for fear behavior, an effect mirrored in the neural structures that mediate it. While constitutive knockouts of Oxtr and Avpr1a are useful for identifying the neural underpinnings of some behaviors, compensatory mechanisms within some circuits may obscure other behavioral roles.
Genes Brain and Behavior 06/2011; 10(7):710-9. · 3.60 Impact Factor
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Manganese-enhanced magnetic resonance imaging is a technique that employs the divalent ion of the paramagnetic metal manganese (Mn(2+)) as an effective contrast agent to visualize, in vivo, the mammalian brain. As total achievable contrast is directly proportional to the net amount of Mn(2+) accumulated in the brain, there is a great interest in optimizing administration protocols to increase the effective delivery of Mn(2+) to the brain while avoiding the toxic effects of Mn(2+) overexposure. In this study, we investigated outcomes following continuous slow systemic infusion of manganese chloride (MnCl(2)) into the mouse via mini-osmotic pump administration. The effects of increasing fractionated rates of Mn(2+) infusion on signal enhancement in regions of the brain were analyzed in a three-treatment study. We acquired whole-brain 3-D T1-weighted images and performed region of interest quantitative analysis to compare mean normalized signal in Mn(2+) treatments spanning 3, 7, or 14 days of infusion (rates of 1, 0.5, and 0.25 μL/h, respectively). Evidence of Mn(2+) transport at the conclusion of each infusion treatment was observed throughout the brains of normally behaving mice. Regions of particular Mn(2+) accumulation include the olfactory bulbs, cortex, infralimbic cortex, habenula, thalamus, hippocampal formation, amygdala, hypothalamus, inferior colliculus, and cerebellum. Signals measured at the completion of each infusion treatment indicate comparable means for all examined fractionated rates of Mn(2+) infusion. In this current study, we achieved a significantly higher dose of Mn(2+) (180 mg/kg) than that employed in previous studies without any observable toxic effects on animal physiology or behavior.
Brain Structure and Function 05/2011; 217(1):107-14. · 7.84 Impact Factor
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The distribution, pharmacology and function of the arginine vasopressin (Avp) 1b receptor subtype (Avpr1b) has proved more challenging to investigate compared to other members of the Avp receptor family. Avp is increasingly recognised as an important modulator of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis, an action mediated by the Avpr1b present on anterior pituitary corticotrophs. The Avpr1b is also expressed in some peripheral tissues including pancreas and adrenal, and in the hippocampus (HIP), paraventricular nucleus and olfactory bulb of the rodent brain where its function is unknown. The central distribution of Avpr1bs is far more restricted than that of the Avpr1a, the main Avp receptor subtype found in the brain. Whether Avpr1b expression in rodent tissues is dependent on differences in the length of microsatellite dinucleotide repeats present in the 5' promoter region of the Avpr1b gene remains to be determined. One difficulty of functional studies on the Avpr1b, especially its involvement in the HPA axis response to stress, which prompted the generation of Avpr1b knockout (KO) mouse models, was the shortage of commercially available Avpr1b ligands, particularly antagonists. Research on mice lacking functional Avpr1bs has highlighted behavioural deficits in social memory and aggression. The Avpr1b KO also appears to be an excellent model to study the contribution of the Avpr1b in the HPA axis response to acute and perhaps some chronic (repeated) stressors where corticotrophin-releasing hormone and other genes involved in the HPA axis response to stress do not appear to compensate for the loss of the Avpr1b.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Oxytocin and its receptor are important for a wide range of effects, from social memory to uterine contractions. It is an evolutionarily well-conserved hormone that is particularly important in social and gregarious animals. Research on small mammals has yielded a rich literature on oxytocin's many functions. Recently a new tool has been created that has furthered our understanding of oxytocin's role in behavior: transgenic mice that lack either the ability to synthesize oxytocin or the oxytocin receptor itself. The study of these lines, while still in its infancy, is already bearing fruit and offers the promise of insight into some human disorders characterized by aberrant social behavior.
Brain research 12/2010; 1364:216-24. · 2.83 Impact Factor
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Oxytocin (Oxt) and the Oxt receptor (Oxtr) are implicated in the onset of maternal behavior in a variety of species. Recently, we developed two Oxtr knockout lines: a total body knockout (Oxtr-/-) and a conditional Oxtr knockout (OxtrFB/FB) in which the Oxtr is lacking only in regions of the forebrain, allowing knockout females to potentially nurse and care for their biological offspring. In the current study, we assessed maternal behavior of postpartum OxtrFB/FB females toward their own pups and maternal behavior of virgin Oxtr-/- females toward foster pups and compared knockouts of both lines to wildtype (Oxtr+/+) littermates. We found that both Oxtr-/- and OxtrFB/FB females appear to have largely normal maternal behaviors. However, with first litters, approximately 40% of the OxtrFB/FB knockout dams experienced high pup mortality, compared to fewer than 10% of the Oxtr+/+ dams. We then went on to test whether or not this phenotype occurred in subsequent litters or when the dams were exposed to an environmental disturbance. We found that regardless of the degree of external disturbance, OxtrFB/FB females lost more pups on their first and second litters compared to wildtype females. Possible reasons for higher pup mortality in OxtrFB/FB females are discussed.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: We have previously reported that mice with a targeted disruption of their vasopressin 1b receptor gene, Avpr1b, have mild impairments in social recognition and reduced aggression. The reductions in aggression are limited to social forms of aggression, i.e., maternal and inter-male aggression, while predatory aggression remains unaffected. To further clarify the role of the Avpr1b in the regulation of social behavior we first examined anxiety-like and depression-like behaviors in Avpr1b knockout (Avpr1b -/-) mice. We then went on to test the ability of Avpr1b -/- mice to form dominance hierarchies. No major differences were found between Avpr1b -/- and wildtype mice in anxiety-like behaviors, as measured using an elevated plus maze and an open field test, or depression-like behaviors, as measured using a forced swim test. In the social dominance study we found that Avpr1b -/- mice are able to form dominance hierarchies, though in early hierarchy formation dominant Avpr1b -/- mice display significantly more mounting behavior on Day 1 of testing compared to wildtype controls. Further, non-socially dominant Avpr1b -/- mice spend less time engaged in attack behavior than wildtype controls. These findings suggest that while Avpr1b -/- mice may be able to form dominance hierarchies they appear to employ alternate strategies.
Hormones and Behavior 03/2010; 58(2):257-63. · 4.51 Impact Factor
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: We have generated rats bearing an oxytocin (OXT)-enhanced cyan fluorescent protein (eCFP) fusion transgene designed from a murine construct previously shown to be faithfully expressed in transgenic mice. In situ hybridisation histochemistry revealed that the Oxt-eCfp fusion gene was expressed in the supraoptic nucleus (SON) and the paraventricular nucleus (PVN) in these rats. The fluorescence emanating from eCFP was observed only in the SON, the PVN, the internal layer of the median eminence and the posterior pituitary (PP). In in vitro preparations, freshly dissociated cells from the SON and axon terminals showed clear eCFP fluorescence. Immunohistochemistry for OXT and arginine vasopressin (AVP) revealed that the eCFP fluorescence co-localises with OXT immunofluorescence, but not with AVP immunofluorescence in the SON and the PVN. Although the expression levels of the Oxt-eCfp fusion gene in the SON and the PVN showed a wide range of variations in transgenic rats, eCFP fluorescence was markedly increased in the SON and the PVN, but decreased in the PP after chronic salt loading. The expression of the Oxt gene was significantly increased in the SON and the PVN after chronic salt loading in both non-transgenic and transgenic rats. Compared with wild-type animals, euhydrated and salt-loaded male and female transgenic rats showed no significant differences in plasma osmolality, sodium concentration and OXT and AVP levels, suggesting that the fusion gene expression did not disturb any physiological processes. These results suggest that our new transgenic rats are a valuable new tool to identify OXT-producing neurones and their terminals.
Journal of Endocrinology 12/2009; 204(3):275-85. · 3.59 Impact Factor
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Social recognition (SR) enables rodents to distinguish between familiar and novel conspecifics, largely through individual odor cues. SR tasks utilize the tendency for a male to sniff and interact with a novel individual more than a familiar individual. Many paradigms have been used to study the roles of the neuropeptides oxytocin and vasopressin in SR. However, inconsistencies in results have arisen within similar mouse strains, and across different paradigms and laboratories, making reliable testing of SR difficult. The current protocol details a novel approach that is replicable across investigators and in different strains of mice. We created a protocol that uses gonadally intact, singly housed females presented within corrals to group-housed males. Housing females singly before testing is particularly important for reliable discrimination. This methodology will be useful for studying short-term social memory in rodents, and may also be applicable for longer term studies.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Oxytocin (Oxt) is a nonapeptide hormone best known for its role in lactation and parturition. Since 1906 when its uterine-contracting properties were described until 50 years later when its sequence was elucidated, research has focused on its peripheral roles in reproduction. Only over the past several decades have researchers focused on what functions Oxt might have in the brain, the subject of this review. Immunohistochemical studies revealed that magnocellular neurons of the hypothalamic paraventricular and supraoptic nuclei are the neurons of origin for the Oxt released from the posterior pituitary. Smaller cells in various parts of the brain, as well as release from magnocellular dendrites, provide the Oxt responsible for modulating various behaviors at its only identified receptor. Although Oxt is implicated in a variety of "non-social" behaviors, such as learning, anxiety, feeding and pain perception, it is Oxt's roles in various social behaviors that have come to the fore recently. Oxt is important for social memory and attachment, sexual and maternal behavior, and aggression. Recent work implicates Oxt in human bonding and trust as well. Human disorders characterized by aberrant social interactions, such as autism and schizophrenia, may also involve Oxt expression. Many, if not most, of Oxt's functions, from social interactions (affiliation, aggression) and sexual behavior to eventual parturition, lactation and maternal behavior, may be viewed as specifically facilitating species propagation.
Progress in Neurobiology 07/2009; 88(2):127-51. · 10.30 Impact Factor
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: We studied three lines of oxytocin (Oxt) and oxytocin receptor (Oxtr) knockout (KO) male mice [Oxt(-/-), total Oxtr(-/-) and partial forebrain Oxtr (Oxtr(FB/FB))] with established deficits in social recognition to further refine our understanding of their deficits with regard to stimulus female's strain. We used a modified social discrimination paradigm in which subjects are singly housed only for the duration of the test. Additionally, stimulus females are singly housed throughout testing and are presented within corrals for rapid comparison of investigation by subject males. Wild-type (WT) males from all three lines discriminated between familiar and novel females of three different strains (C57BL/6, BALB/c and Swiss-Webster). No KO males discriminated between familiar and novel BALB/c or C57BL/6 females. Male Oxt(-/-) and Oxtr(-/-) mice, but not Oxtr(FB/FB) mice, discriminated between familiar and novel Swiss-Webster females. As this might indicate a global deficit in individual recognition for Oxtr(FB/FB) males, we examined their ability to discriminate between females from different strains and compared performance with Oxtr(-/-) males. WT and KO males from both lines were able to distinguish between familiar and novel females from different strains, indicating the social recognition deficit is not universal. Instead, we hypothesize that the Oxtr is involved in 'fine' intrastrain recognition, but is less important in 'broad' interstrain recognition. We also present the novel finding of decreased investigation across tests, which is likely an artifact of repeated testing and not because of stimulus female's strain or age of subject males.
Genes Brain and Behavior 07/2009; 8(5):558-67. · 3.60 Impact Factor
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: It has been previously reported that vasopressin 1b receptor knockout (Avpr1b(-/-)) mice have reduced levels of aggressive behavior compared to wildtype littermates. However, as the background of the mice was always a mixture of 129/SvJ and C57BL/6, we wanted to determine if the phenotype persisted when our laboratory line was crossed with a wild-derived sub-species of house mice. To this end, we crossed our Avpr1b(-/-) mice with Mus musculus castaneus, one of the few sub-species that will breed with laboratory strains. Subsequent F(2) offspring were tested in a resident-intruder behavioral test to assess aggressive behavior. We found that even on this more "wild" background, Avpr1b(-/-) mice continued to demonstrate longer attack latencies and fewer attacks in a resident-intruder test than wildtype littermates. These findings are consistent with previous reports of reduced aggressive behavior in Avpr1b(-/-) mice and show that the deficit does persist on a different background strain. Further, these findings confirm the importance of the Avpr1b to normal displays of social forms of aggressive behavior.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Mice lacking a functional vasopressin 1b receptor (Avpr1b) display decreased levels of aggression and social memory. Here, we used Avpr1b-knock-out (Avpr1b(-/-)) mice to examine whether an abnormality of this receptor results in specific cognitive deficits in the domain of hippocampal function. Avpr1b(-/-) mice were deficient in sociability and in detecting social novelty, extending previous findings of impairment in social recognition in these mutants. Avpr1b(-/-) mice could recognize previously explored objects and remember where they were experienced, but they were impaired in remembering the temporal order of presentation of those objects. Consistent with this finding, Avpr1b(-/-) mice were also impaired on an object-odor paired associate task that involved a temporal discontiguity between the associated elements. Finally, Avpr1b(-/-) mice performed normally in learning a set of overlapping odor discriminations and could infer relationships among odors that were only indirectly associated (i.e., transitive inference), indicating intact relational memory. The Avpr1b is expressed at much higher levels than any other part of the brain in the pyramidal cells of hippocampal CA2 area, a subfield of the hippocampus that has physiological and genetic properties that distinguish it from subfields CA1 and CA3. The combined results suggest that the Avpr1b, perhaps in CA2, may play a highly specific role in social behavior and episodic memory. Because schizophrenia and bipolar disorder are associated with a unique pathology in CA2 and impairments in both social behavior and episodic memory, this animal model could provide insights into the etiology of these disorders.
Journal of Neuroscience 04/2009; 29(9):2676-83. · 6.75 Impact Factor