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The effects of localized application of oxytocin and vasopressin in the central nervous system Tiberiis, Bruce Edmund


Immunocytochemical studies have demonstrated that nerve fibers containing immunoreactive oxytocin and vasopressin project to many areas of the central nervous system, including the hippocampus and the lateral septum (Buijs, 1980; Sofroniew and Weindl, 1978). Biochemical, physiological and behavioral studies of the effects of these peptides on the CNS have indicated that they are involved in functions as diverse as the control of serotonin turnover (Auerbach and Lipton, 1982), the regulation of body temperature (Kasting et. al., 1979) and the retention of conditioned behavior (de Wied et. al., 1974; Koob and Bloom, 1982). The presence of immunoreactive vasopressin (iAVP) in the hippocampus of Wistar rats was confirmed by radioimmunoassay. The vasopressin content of the dorsal hippocampus was 30.3 ± 7.3 pg iAVP/mg soluble protein and that of the ventral hippocampus was 81.4 ± 8.3 pg iAVP/mg soluble protein, while tissue from the cerebral cortex contained no detectable vasopressin. That this immunoreactivity was due to vasopressin was confirmed by the absence of immunoreactivity in hippocampal or cortical tissue from Brattleboro rats, which are genetically unable to synthesize vasopressin. Vasopressin applied by iontophoresis was found to increase the activity of neurones in the lateral septum and in the hippocampus of the anesthetized rat. There was no obvious difference between the response of spontaneously active cells and the response of cells excited by continuous iontophoresis of glutamate or acetylcholine. Repeated application of vasopressin resulted in a decline in the magnitude of the response, but at least part of this decline was due to progressive blockage of the micropipette barrel rather than to tachyphylaxis. Oxytocin, tested only in the septum, was without effect. When applied by superfusion onto rat hippocampal slices, the NHP peptides were found to increase the activity of 88% of spontaneously active cells and to induce activity in many neurones that were not spontaneously active. Arginine vasopressin, lysine vasopressin, arginine vasotocin, and oxytocin were found to be of roughly equivalent potency, producing a dose dependent response in the range 10⁻⁹-10⁻⁶M. Most cells were tested with more than one peptide and were always found to respond either to all or to none of them. There was no decline in responsiveness when cells were subjected to repeated applications of peptide, but continuous application caused the cells to become unresponsive. Following continuous application of oxytocin, a cell failed to respond to both oxytocin and vasopressin, as would be expected if the two peptides were acting on the same receptor. The analogues ddOT, ddAVP, and Gly⁷0T were also active, but the oxytocin fragment PLG had no effect, and the vasopressin fragment DGAVP was extremely weak. The response to the peptides could be blocked by vasopressin antagonists. The peptide sensitive cells appeared to be pyramidal cells rather than interneurones, since the peptide induced activity could be inhibited for about 200-600 msec by electrical stimulation of the stratum radiatum.

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