Central vasopressin administration regulates the onset of facultative paternal behavior in microtus pennsylvanicus (meadow voles)

Horm Behav. 2001 Jun;39(4):285-94. doi: 10.1006/hbeh.2001.1655.


Pharmacological experiments have implicated a role for central arginine vasopressin (AVP) in regulating paternal behavior in monogamous prairie voles. Although nonmonogamous meadow voles exhibit appreciable paternal care when housed under winter, short day lengths (SD), no research has examined whether the same neurobiological systems are involved in regulating paternal behavior in a nonmonogamous species when it behaves paternally. The goal of these experiments was to determine whether central administration of AVP, but not cerebrospinal fluid (CSF), affected the suppression of pup-directed aggression and/or the onset of paternal behavior in meadow voles. Data from experiment 1 implicated a role for AVP in facilitating changes in male behavior: central administration of 1 ng of AVP (but not 3 ng or CSF) inhibited pup-directed aggression in previously pup-aggressive males, and 3 ng of AVP (but not 1 ng or CSF) induced paternal behavior in previously nonpaternal males. In contrast, AVP (1 and 3 ng) did not enhance paternal behavior in already paternal males. Experiment 2 tested the specificity of AVP. Previous research indicated that 24 h of unmated cohabitation with a female reliably induced paternal behavior in SD males. Hence, experiment 2 examined whether administration of a V(1a) AVP antagonist (AVPA), but not CSF, prior to 24 h of unmated cohabitation would block the onset of paternal behavior. Males that received CSF displayed paternal behavior faster and engaged in more investigatory and paternal behaviors than males that received AVPA. Thus, pharmacological experiments support the hypothesis that AVP likely regulates paternal behavior in both facultatively and consistently paternal vole species.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Aggression / drug effects
  • Animals
  • Arginine Vasopressin / administration & dosage*
  • Arginine Vasopressin / analogs & derivatives*
  • Arginine Vasopressin / pharmacology
  • Arvicolinae / physiology*
  • Behavior, Animal / drug effects*
  • Behavior, Animal / physiology
  • Cerebrospinal Fluid / physiology
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Female
  • Hormone Antagonists / pharmacology
  • Housing, Animal
  • Injections, Intraventricular
  • Interpersonal Relations
  • Male
  • Paternal Behavior*


  • Hormone Antagonists
  • Arginine Vasopressin
  • vasopressin, 1-(1-mercaptocyclohexaneacetic acid)-2-(O- methyl-L-tyrosine)-8-L-arginine-