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The neuropeptides oxytocin (OT) and vasopressin (AVP) are critical in the formation of pair bonding in the vole, and potentially in other species. The finding that normally promiscuous male rats display a conditioned ejaculatory preference (CEP) for females that bear an odor paired with the sexual reward state induced by ejaculation prompted us to examine whether similar mechanisms may mediate this rudiment of pair bonding. Sexually naïve Long-Evans male rats were given 9 multi-ejaculatory copulation trials at 4-day intervals with either almond-scented (paired) or unscented (unpaired) sexually receptive females. CEP was examined in an open field, in which each male had unrestricted access to two receptive females, one scented with almond and the other unscented. Males in both groups were given two reconditioning trials and presented with the almond odor on gauze for 1 h prior to sacrifice. Neuronal activation was assessed by immunohistochemical detection of Fos protein within OT or AVP neurons. Exposure to the odor induced significantly greater activation of OT neurons in parvocellular neurons of the paraventricular nucleus (PVN) and of AVP in magnocellular neurons of the supraoptic nucleus (SON) in the paired group compared to the unpaired group. The second experiment examined whether oxytocin or vasopressin could enhance the acquisition of a CEP. Sexually naïve male Long-Evans rats received a subcutaneous injection of OT, AVP, or the saline vehicle, prior to their first sexual experience with an almond-scented female. CEP was examined 4 days later in the open field. Males injected with OT, but not AVP or saline, displayed significant CEP. The selective activation of OT neurons by the conditioned odor in the paired group, and the ability of OT injections to enhance the association of the odor and sexual reward, indicates that enhanced OT transmission is critical in the formation of CEP in male rats.
This article was published in the following journal.
Name: Physiology & behavior
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Carrier proteins for OXYTOCIN and VASOPRESSIN. They are polypeptides of about 10-kDa, synthesized in the HYPOTHALAMUS. Neurophysin I is associated with oxytocin and neurophysin II is associated with vasopressin in their respective precursors and during transportation down the axons to the neurohypophysis (PITUITARY GLAND, POSTERIOR).
Cell surface proteins that bind oxytocin with high affinity and trigger intracellular changes which influence the behavior of cells. Oxytocin receptors in the uterus and the mammary glands mediate the hormone's stimulation of contraction and milk ejection. The presence of oxytocin and oxytocin receptors in neurons of the brain probably reflects an additional role as a neurotransmitter.
A nonapeptide hormone released from the neurohypophysis (PITUITARY GLAND, POSTERIOR). It differs from VASOPRESSIN by two amino acids at residues 3 and 8. Oxytocin acts on SMOOTH MUSCLE CELLS, such as causing UTERINE CONTRACTIONS and MILK EJECTION.
A nonapeptide that contains the ring of OXYTOCIN and the side chain of ARG-VASOPRESSIN with the latter determining the specific recognition of hormone receptors. Vasotocin is the non-mammalian vasopressin-like hormone or antidiuretic hormone regulating water and salt metabolism.
The male reproductive organs. They are divided into the external organs (PENIS; SCROTUM;and URETHRA) and the internal organs (TESTIS; EPIDIDYMIS; VAS DEFERENS; SEMINAL VESICLES; EJACULATORY DUCTS; PROSTATE; and BULBOURETHRAL GLANDS).
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