Targeting Neurons with Functional Oxytocin Receptors: A Novel Set of Simple Knock-In Mouse Lines for Oxytocin Receptor Visualization and Manipulation

eNeuro. 2022 Feb 15;9(1):ENEURO.0423-21.2022. doi: 10.1523/ENEURO.0423-21.2022. Print 2022 Jan-Feb.


The neuropeptide oxytocin (Oxt) plays important roles in modulating social behaviors. Oxt receptor (Oxtr) is abundantly expressed in the brain and its relationship to socio-behavioral controls has been extensively studied using mouse brains. Several genetic tools to visualize and/or manipulate Oxtr-expressing cells, such as fluorescent reporters and Cre recombinase drivers, have been generated by ES-cell based gene targeting or bacterial artificial chromosome (BAC) transgenesis. However, these mouse lines displayed some differences in their Oxtr expression profiles probably because of the complex context and integrity of their genomic configurations in each line. Here, we apply our sophisticated genome-editing techniques to the Oxtr locus, systematically generating a series of knock-in mouse lines, in which its endogenous transcriptional regulations are intactly preserved and evaluate their expression profiles to ensure the reliability of our new tools. We employ the epitope tagging strategy, with which C-terminally fused tags can be detected by highly specific antibodies, to successfully visualize the Oxtr protein distribution on the neural membrane with super-resolution imaging for the first time. By using T2A self-cleaving peptide sequences, we also induce proper expressions of tdTomato reporter, codon-improved Cre recombinase (iCre), and spatiotemporally inducible Cre-ERT2 in Oxtr-expressing neurons. Electrophysiological recordings from tdTomato-positive cells in the reporter mice support the validity of our tool design. Retro-orbital injections of AAV-PHP.eB vector into the Cre line further enabled visualization of recombinase activities in the appropriate brain regions. Moreover, the first-time Cre-ERT2 line drives Cre-mediated recombination in a spatiotemporally controlled manner on tamoxifen (TMX) administration. These tools thus provide an excellent resource for future functional studies in Oxt-responsive neurons and should prove of broad interest in the field.

Keywords: Cre driver mouse; genome editing; knock-in mice; oxytocin; oxytocin receptor; reporter mouse.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Mice
  • Mice, Transgenic
  • Neurons* / metabolism
  • Oxytocin / metabolism
  • Receptors, Oxytocin* / genetics
  • Receptors, Oxytocin* / metabolism
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Social Behavior


  • Receptors, Oxytocin
  • Oxytocin