Oxytocin modulates female sociosexual behavior through a specific class of prefrontal cortical interneurons

Cell. 2014 Oct 9;159(2):295-305. doi: 10.1016/j.cell.2014.09.020.


Human imaging studies have revealed that intranasal administration of the "prosocial" hormone oxytocin (OT) activates the frontal cortex, and this action of OT correlates with enhanced brain function in autism. Here, we report the discovery of a population of somatostatin (Sst)-positive, regular spiking interneurons that express the oxytocin receptor (OxtrINs). Silencing of OxtrINs in the medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC) of female mice resulted in loss of social interest in male mice specifically during the sexually receptive phase of the estrous cycle. This sociosexual deficit was also present in mice in which the Oxtr gene was conditionally deleted from the mPFC and in control mice infused with an Oxtr antagonist. Our data demonstrate a gender-, cell type-, and state-specific role for OT/Oxtr signaling in the mPFC and identify a latent cortical circuit element that may modulate other complex social behaviors in response to OT.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Estrous Cycle
  • Female
  • Interneurons / metabolism*
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Oxytocin / metabolism
  • Prefrontal Cortex / cytology
  • Prefrontal Cortex / metabolism*
  • Receptors, Oxytocin / metabolism*
  • Sex Characteristics
  • Sexual Behavior, Animal*
  • Social Behavior


  • Receptors, Oxytocin
  • Oxytocin

Associated data

  • GEO/GSE56996