Effects of stress and glucocorticoids on CNS oxytocin receptor binding

Israel Liberzon, Elizabeth A. Young

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

98 Scopus citations


Oxytocin receptors in several regions of the limbic system are regulated by gonadal steroids and play an important role in the mediation of maternal, sexual and affiliative behaviors. We have previously reported oxytocin receptor regulation by glucocorticoids in hippocampus and subiculum-neuroanatomical regions implicated in memory and stress regulation. In the current study we examined oxytocin receptor regulation by stress and high glucocorticoid concentration in adrenally intact male rats. Single prolonged stress and chronic non-habituating stress were used as experimental conditions in the first study, and chronic non-habituating and high dose corticosterone implants in the second. Oxytocin receptor concentration was assessed using in vitro receptor autoradiography with [125I]OVTA at the approximate K(D) concentration. Both stress paradigms increased oxytocin receptor binding (F = 3.7, df= 2, p = .03) across brain regions in the first study. Chronic non-habituating stress and corticosterone implants increased oxytocin receptor binding in the ventral hippocampus only (one-way ANOVA, F = 3.88, df= 2, p < .05). The current studies demonstrate that stress increases oxytocin receptor binding in areas of the CNS that are rich in glucocorticoid receptors, such as hippocampus. This suggests differential regulation of oxytocin receptors in CNS, depending upon their functional role in different regions. Oxytocin receptor modulation could mediate some of the long-term effects of stress on memory, and possibly play a role in the regulation of hypothalamo- pituitary-adrenal stress response. The ability of circulating glucocorticoids to up-regulate these receptors suggests a plausible mechanism for this stress-sensitive regulation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)411-422
Number of pages12
Issue number6
StatePublished - Aug 1997


  • Hippocampus
  • I OVTA
  • In vitro autoradiography
  • Male rats

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
  • Endocrinology
  • Endocrine and Autonomic Systems
  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Biological Psychiatry


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