Expression of synaptic proteins in the hippocampus is modulated by neonatal oxytocin treatment

Neurosci Lett. 2020 Apr 23:725:134912. doi: 10.1016/j.neulet.2020.134912. Epub 2020 Mar 12.


An alteration of oxytocin signaling during postnatal maturation of the brain could be associated with etiology of neurodevelopmental disorders among them autism. The aim of the present study was to examine the role of oxytocin in the regulation of expression of selected cell-adhesion molecules and scaffolding proteins in the hippocampus in early rat development. Oxytocin treatment (1 mg/ml, i.p., 50 μl/pup) at postnatal days P2-P3 resulted in the reduction of Neuroligin 3 gene expression, and was accompanied by lower SHANK1 and SHANK3 mRNA levels in the hippocampus at P5 day. Immunostaining revealed a clear trend for the lower density of Neuroligin 3 positive cells in the hippocampus and this trend has been significant in the CA3 hippocampal area. The significantly lower Neurexin 2β mRNA levels were observed in response to oxytocin treatment, with no effect seen in the Neurexin 2α gene expression. No change has been observed in the gene expression of Neuroligin 1 and Neuroligin 2. Oxytocin induced an increase in the mRNA levels of Neuron-Specific Enolase (NSE) and a decrease in the mRNA levels of glial fibrillary acid protein (GFAP) - marker of astrocytes. Incubation of primary neuronal cells with oxytocin (1 μM, 48 h) stimulated a proliferation of NSE-positive cells. These results suggest that synaptic proteins could be under control of oxytocin in early stages of brain development. The changes of cell-adhesion molecule and scaffolding protein levels might be linked to the modulation of number of neuronal cells.

Keywords: Astrocytes; Development; Neurexins; Neuroligins; Neurons; Oxytocin; Scaffolding proteins.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Animals, Newborn
  • Cell Adhesion Molecules, Neuronal / biosynthesis
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Developmental / drug effects
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Developmental / physiology*
  • Hippocampus / drug effects
  • Hippocampus / growth & development*
  • Hippocampus / metabolism*
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins / biosynthesis*
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins / genetics
  • Oxytocin / metabolism*
  • Oxytocin / pharmacology*
  • Oxytocin / toxicity
  • Rats
  • Rats, Wistar
  • Synapses / drug effects
  • Synapses / metabolism


  • Cell Adhesion Molecules, Neuronal
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins
  • Shank1 protein, rat
  • neuroligin 1
  • neuroligin 2
  • Oxytocin