Identification of oxytocin expression in human and murine microglia

Yuko Meajima, Shoko Yokota, Tomoyuki Ono, Zhiqian Yu, Megumi Yamachi, Shizu Hidema, Kenneth E. Nollet, Katsuhiko Nishimori, Hiroaki Tomita, Hiroyuki Yaginuma, Kenju Shimomura

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Oxytocin is a neuropeptide synthesized in the hypothalamus. In addition to its role in parturition and lactation, oxytocin mediates social behavior and pair bonding. The possibility of using oxytocin to modify behavior in neurodevelopmental disorders, such as autism spectrum disorder, is of clinical interest. Microglia are tissue-resident macrophages with roles in neurogenesis, synapse pruning, and immunological mediation of brain homeostasis. Recently, oxytocin was found to attenuate microglial secretion of proinflammatory cytokines, but the source of this oxytocin was not established. This prompted us to investigate whether microglia themselves were the source. Methods: We examined oxytocin expression in human and murine brain tissue in both sexes using immunohistochemistry. Oxytocin mRNA expression and secretion were examined in isolated murine microglia from wild type and oxytocin-knockout mice. Also, secretion of oxytocin and cytokines was measured in cultured microglia (MG6) stimulated with lipopolysaccharide (LPS). Results: We identified oxytocin expression in microglia of human brain tissue, cultured microglia (MG6), and primary murine microglia. Furthermore, LPS stimulation increased oxytocin mRNA expression in primary murine microglia and MG6 cells, and oxytocin secretion as well. A positive correlation between oxytocin and IL-1β, IL-10 secretion emerged, respectively. Conclusion: This may be the first demonstration of oxytocin expression in microglia. Functionally, oxytocin might regulate inflammatory cytokine release from microglia in a paracrine/autocrine manner.

Original languageEnglish
Article number110600
JournalProgress in Neuro-Psychopharmacology and Biological Psychiatry
Publication statusPublished - 2022 Dec 20


  • Iba-1
  • IL-10
  • IL-1β
  • MG6
  • Microglia
  • Oxytocin

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pharmacology
  • Biological Psychiatry


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