Oxytocin and the oxytocin receptor underlie intrastrain, but not interstrain, social recognition

Genes Brain Behav. 2009 Jul;8(5):558-67. doi: 10.1111/j.1601-183X.2009.00506.x. Epub 2009 May 21.


We studied three lines of oxytocin (Oxt) and oxytocin receptor (Oxtr) knockout (KO) male mice [Oxt(-/-), total Oxtr(-/-) and partial forebrain Oxtr (Oxtr(FB/FB))] with established deficits in social recognition to further refine our understanding of their deficits with regard to stimulus female's strain. We used a modified social discrimination paradigm in which subjects are singly housed only for the duration of the test. Additionally, stimulus females are singly housed throughout testing and are presented within corrals for rapid comparison of investigation by subject males. Wild-type (WT) males from all three lines discriminated between familiar and novel females of three different strains (C57BL/6, BALB/c and Swiss-Webster). No KO males discriminated between familiar and novel BALB/c or C57BL/6 females. Male Oxt(-/-) and Oxtr(-/-) mice, but not Oxtr(FB/FB) mice, discriminated between familiar and novel Swiss-Webster females. As this might indicate a global deficit in individual recognition for Oxtr(FB/FB) males, we examined their ability to discriminate between females from different strains and compared performance with Oxtr(-/-) males. WT and KO males from both lines were able to distinguish between familiar and novel females from different strains, indicating the social recognition deficit is not universal. Instead, we hypothesize that the Oxtr is involved in 'fine' intrastrain recognition, but is less important in 'broad' interstrain recognition. We also present the novel finding of decreased investigation across tests, which is likely an artifact of repeated testing and not because of stimulus female's strain or age of subject males.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Intramural

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Behavior, Animal / physiology
  • Brain / metabolism*
  • Brain Chemistry / genetics*
  • Female
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred BALB C
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Mice, Knockout
  • Oxytocin / metabolism*
  • Receptors, Oxytocin / metabolism*
  • Sex Characteristics
  • Sexual Behavior, Animal / physiology
  • Social Behavior*
  • Species Specificity


  • Receptors, Oxytocin
  • Oxytocin