Arginine Vasopressin and Oxytocin Modulate Human Social Behavior

Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences (Impact Factor: 4.38). 06/2009; 1167(1):87 - 102. DOI: 10.1111/j.1749-6632.2009.04541.x


Increasing evidence suggests that two nonapeptides, arginine vasopressin and oxytocin, shape human social behavior in both nonclinical and clinical subjects. Evidence is discussed that in autism spectrum disorders genetic polymorphisms in the vasopressin–oxytocin pathway, notably the arginine vasopressin receptor 1a (AVPR1a), the oxytocin receptor (OXTR), neurophysin I and II, and CD38 (recently shown to be critical for social behavior by mediating oxytocin secretion) contribute to deficits in socialization skills in this group of patients. We also present first evidence that CD38 expression in lymphoblastoid cells derived from subjects diagnosed with autism is correlated with social skill phenotype inventoried by the Vineland Adaptive Behavioral Scales. Additionally, we discuss molecular genetic evidence that in nonclinical subjects both AVPR1a and OXTR genes contribute to prosocial or altruistic behavior inventoried by two experimental paradigms, the dictator game and social values orientation. The role of the AVPR1a is also analyzed in prepulse inhibition. Prepulse inhibition of the startle response to auditory stimuli is a largely autonomic response that resonates with social cognition in both animal models and humans. First results are presented showing that intranasal administration of arginine vasopressin increases salivary cortisol levels in the Trier Social Stress test. To summarize, accumulating studies employing a broad array of cutting-edge tools in psychology, neuroeconomics, molecular genetics, pharmacology, electrophysiology, and brain imaging are beginning to elaborate the intriguing role of oxytocin and arginine vasopressin in human social behavior. We expect that future studies will continue this advance and deepen our understanding of these complex events.

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    • "However, the binding affinity of Pro 8 -OXT and Leu 8 -OXT for marmoset arginine-vasopressin (AVP) receptors is currently unknown. While OXT appears to have HPA-axis activity reducing properties (Neumann and Landgraf, 2012), activation of AVP receptors has been shown to increase HPAaxis activity (Ebstein et al., 2009; Shalev et al., 2011). OXT and AVP appear to have opposing effects on the HPA-axis response to stressors , with AVP augmenting, and OXT attenuating HPA-axis activity (Legros, 2001). "
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    ABSTRACT: Social isolation is a major source of stress and can lead to activation of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis. The presence of a close social partner can reduce the magnitude of the HPA-axis response during a stressor, a phenomenon known as social buffering. The oxytocin (OXT) system has been identified as one candidate for mediating social buffering due to its role in the facilitation of social bonding and the expression of prosocial behavior. The goal of the present study was to determine whether the OXT system contributes to social buffering of HPA-axis activity in response to stressor exposure in marmoset monkeys (Callithrix jacchus). Male and female marmosets experienced a standardized psychogenic stressor with and without their long-term mate under OXT-treatments (Pro8-OXT, Leu8-OXT, OXT antagonist, and saline); we assessed HPA-axis activity by measuring urinary cortisol across the stressor. We found that blocking, but not augmenting, the OXT system altered patterns of cortisol and proximity behavior in response to a stressor. We demonstrated that (1) the presence of a mate during a stressor significantly attenuated HPA-axis activity in female, but not male, marmosets; (2) male, but not female, marmosets treated with an OXT antagonist had significantly higher HPA-axis activity across the stressor than when they were treated with saline, suggesting that the OXT system may reduce the stressor-induced rise in cortisol levels; (3) male and female marmosets treated with an OXT antagonist spent significantly less time in close proximity to their mate during the first 30 min of the stressor than when they were treated with saline, suggesting that the OXT system may be important for the expression of partner-seeking behavior during a stressor. Thus, the OXT system and social context differentially influenced how the HPA-axis responded to a stressor in male and female marmosets, and may modulate HPA-axis activity by promoting the expression of proximity behavior with a close social partner.
    Full-text · Article · Apr 2016 · Psychoneuroendocrinology
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    • "As OXT-OXTR interaction is related to social behavior[Chen et al., 2011;Ebstein et al., 2009], the role of the ASD-risk allele rs237889-A and the nonassociated allele 237897-T on ASD severity regarding the three dimensions social interaction, communication and repetitive stereotypical behavior (Fig. 2) were additionally explored. Distributions of gender, age, and IQ were similar between carriers of the minor alleles of both variants, respectively. "
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    ABSTRACT: Neuropeptides such as oxytocin (OXT) are known facilitators of social behavior across species. Variants of the OXT receptor gene (OXTR) have been tested for association with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) across manifold ethnicities, yielding both positive and negative findings. A recent meta-analysis, comprising 16 single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs), has corroborated the implication of OXTR in the etiology of ASD. Here, we genotyped and tested two additional variants (rs237889 and rs237897) for association with ASD in two German predominantly high-functioning ASD samples. We found nominal over-transmission (OR = 1.48, CI95 = 1.06-2.08, P = 0.022) for the minor A allele of variant rs237889G>A in sample 1 (N = 135 complete parent-offspring trios, 29 parent child duos), but not in sample 2 (362 trios, 69 duos). Still, in a meta-analysis comprising four different studies including the two unreported German data sets (N = 542 families), this finding was confirmed (OR = 1.12; CI95 = 1.01-1.24, random effects P = 0.012). In addition, carriers of the minor risk allele rs237889-A showed significantly increased severity scores, as assessed through the autism diagnostic interview - revised (ADI-R), with highly significant increases in social interaction deficits. Our results corroborate the implication of common OXTR variants in the etiology of ASD. There is a need for functional studies to delineate the neurobiological implications of this and other association findings. (172/250). Autism Res 2016. © 2016 International Society for Autism Research, Wiley Periodicals, Inc.
    Full-text · Article · Jan 2016 · Autism Research
    • "Oxytocin is a nine amino acid neuropeptide produced by the paraventricular and supraoptic nuclei of the hypothalamus and acts on the OXT receptor, which is widely distributed throughout the brain (Barberis and Tribollet, 1996). In human studies, IN OXT administration increased trust (Baumgartner et al., 2008), positive communication (Ditzen et al., 2009), improved mind reading (Domes et al., 2007), and had a positive impact on social behaviors in both normal (Ebstein et al., 2009) and autistic individuals (Aoki et al., 2014; Watanabe et al., 2015). "
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    ABSTRACT: The intranasal route of drug administration has gained increased popularity as it is thought to allow large molecules, such as peptide hormones, more direct access to the brain, while limiting systemic exposure. Several studies have investigated the effects of intranasal oxytocin administration in humans as this peptide is associated with prosocial behavior. There are, however, few preclinical studies investigating the effects of intranasal oxytocin administration in rodents. Oxytocin modulates hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis functioning and it has been suggested that oxytocin's ability to increase sociability may occur through a reduction in stress reactivity. Another peptide that appears to influence both social behavior and HPA axis activity is gastrin-releasing peptide (GRP), but it is not known if these GRP-induced effects are related. With this in mind, in the present study, we assessed the effects of intranasal and intraperitoneal oxytocin and GRP administration on social interaction and release of corticosterone in rats. Intranasal and intraperitoneal administration of 20, but not 5μg, of oxytocin significantly increased social interaction, whereas intranasal and peripheral administration of GRP (20 but not 5μg) significantly decreased levels of social interaction. In addition, while intranasal oxytocin (20μg) had no effect on blood corticosterone levels, a marked increase in blood corticosterone levels was observed following intraperitoneal oxytocin administration. With GRP, intranasal (20μg) but not peripheral administration increased corticosterone levels. These findings provide further evidence that intranasal peptide delivery can induce behavioral alterations in rodents which is consistent with findings from human studies. In addition, the peptide-induced changes in social interaction were not linked to fluctuations in corticosterone levels.
    No preview · Article · Nov 2015 · Psychoneuroendocrinology
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