Pup exposure facilitates retrieving behavior via the oxytocin neural system in female mice

Shota Okabe, Yousuke Tsuneoka, Aki Takahashi, Rumi Ooyama, Akiyuki Watarai, Sayaka Maeda, Yuka Honda, Miho Nagasawa, Kazutaka Mogi, Katsuhiko Nishimori, Masaru Kuroda, Tsuyoshi Koide, Takefumi Kikusui

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    31 Citations (Scopus)


    Parental behavior in mammals is innate, but it is also facilitated by social experience, specifically social interactions between the parent and infant. Social interactions with infants also induce the alloparental behavior of virgin animals. Oxytocin (OT) plays an important role in mediating alloparental behavior. Although parental behavior is modulated by the medial preoptic area (MPOA) and adjacent regions, it is unclear how OT acts in these regions as a control mechanism of alloparental behavior promoted by adult-pup interaction. The aim of this study was to investigate the role of OT for facilitating effects of adult-pup interactions on alloparental behavior via neural activity of preoptic area (POA), including MPOA and adjacent area. For this purpose, we conducted behavioral tests and examined the neural activity of the OT system in POA. Virgin female mice that were repeatedly exposed to pups showed shorter retrieving latencies and higher number of c-Fos expressing neurons in POA, particular in lateral preoptic area (LPO) compared to control animals that were exposed to pups only one time. In addition, repeated pup exposure increased the proportion of OT neurons and OTR neurons expressing c-Fos in POA. The concentration of OT also significantly increased in the POA. Finally, infusion of an OT antagonist into the POA area blocked the facilitating effects of repeated pup exposure on retrieving behavior. These results demonstrated that the facilitating effects of repeated pup exposure on alloparental behavior occurred via an organizational role of the OT system.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)20-30
    Number of pages11
    Publication statusPublished - 2017 May 1


    • Alloparental behavior
    • Medial preoptic area
    • Mice
    • Oxytocin
    • Pup sensitization
    • Retrieving behavior

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
    • Endocrinology
    • Endocrine and Autonomic Systems
    • Psychiatry and Mental health
    • Biological Psychiatry


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