Oxytocin regulates a diverse set of processes including stress, analgesia, metabolism, and social behavior. How such diverse functions are mediated by a single hormonal system is not well understood. Different functions of oxytocin could be mediated by distinct cell groups, yet it is currently unknown whether different oxytocinergic cell types exist that specifically mediate peripheral neuroendocrine or various central neuromodulatory processes via dedicated pathways. Using the Brainbow technique to map the morphology and projections of individual oxytocinergic cells in the larval zebrafish brain, we report here the existence of two main types of oxytocinergic cells: those that innervate the pituitary and those that innervate diverse brain regions. Similar to the situation in the adult rat and the adult midshipman, but in contrast to the situation in the adult trout, these two cell types are mutually exclusive and can be distinguished based on morphological and anatomical criteria. Further, our results reveal that complex oxytocinergic innervation patterns are already established in the larval zebrafish brain.
Keywords: Brainbow; morphology; neuronal subtypes; oxytocin; zebrafish.