A Cortical Circuit for Sexually Dimorphic Oxytocin-Dependent Anxiety Behaviors

Cell. 2016 Sep 22;167(1):60-72.e11. doi: 10.1016/j.cell.2016.08.067. Epub 2016 Sep 15.


The frequency of human social and emotional disorders varies significantly between males and females. We have recently reported that oxytocin receptor interneurons (OxtrINs) modulate female sociosexual behavior. Here, we show that, in male mice, OxtrINs regulate anxiety-related behaviors. We demonstrate that corticotropin-releasing-hormone-binding protein (CRHBP), an antagonist of the stress hormone CRH, is specifically expressed in OxtrINs. Production of CRHBP blocks the CRH-induced potentiation of postsynaptic layer 2/3 pyramidal cell activity of male, but not female, mice, thus producing an anxiolytic effect. Our data identify OxtrINs as critical for modulation of social and emotional behaviors in both females and males and reveal a molecular mechanism that acts on local medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC) circuits to coordinate responses to OXT and CRH. They suggest that additional studies of the impact of the OXT/OXTR and CRHBP/CRH pathways in males and females will be important in development of gender-specific therapies.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Anxiety / metabolism
  • Anxiety / psychology*
  • Behavior, Animal
  • Carrier Proteins / metabolism*
  • Corticotropin-Releasing Hormone / metabolism*
  • Female
  • Interneurons / metabolism*
  • Long-Term Potentiation
  • Male
  • Metabolic Networks and Pathways
  • Mice
  • Oxytocin / metabolism*
  • Prefrontal Cortex / metabolism*
  • Receptors, Oxytocin / metabolism*
  • Sex Characteristics*
  • Sex Factors


  • Carrier Proteins
  • Receptors, Oxytocin
  • corticotropin releasing factor-binding protein
  • Oxytocin
  • Corticotropin-Releasing Hormone