Oxytocin (OT) has an organizational effect within the central nervous system and can have long-lasting effects on the expression of social behavior. OT has recently been implicated in modulating the release of serotonin through activation of receptors in the raphe nuclei. Here we test the hypothesis that OT can have an organizational effect on the serotonergic system. Male prairie voles received an intraperitoneal injection on postnatal day 1 with 3.0 or .3 µg OT, an OT antagonist, or a saline control. Brains were collected on day 21 and immunostained for serotonin. Serotonin axons were quantified in the anterior hypothalamus, cortical amygdala, medial amygdala, paraventricular nucleus of the hypothalamus, and ventromedial hypothalamus. Males treated with 3.0 µg OT displayed significantly higher serotonin axon length densities in the anterior hypothalamus, cortical amygdala, and the ventromedial hypothalamus than control males. These results support the hypothesis that OT has an organizational effect on the serotonin system during the neonatal period, and that these effects are site-specific.
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