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Imaging oxytocin × dopamine interactions: an epistasis effect of CD38 and COMT gene variants influences the impact of oxytocin on amygdala activation to social stimuli.

Sauer C, et al. Front Neurosci. 2013.


Although oxytocin (OT) has become a major target for the investigation of positive social processes, it can be assumed that it exerts its effects in concert with other neurotransmitters. One candidate for such an interaction is dopamine (DA). For both systems, genetic variants have been identified that influence the availability of the particular substance. A variant of the gene coding for the transmembrane protein CD38 (rs3796863), which is engaged in OT secretion, has been associated with OT plasma level. The common catechol-O-methyltransferase (COMT) val158met polymorphism is known to influence COMT activity and therefore the degradation of DA. The present study aimed to investigate OT × DA interactions in the context of an OT challenge study. Hence, we tested the influence of the above mentioned genetic variants and their interaction on the activation of different brain regions (amygdala, VTA, ventral striatum and fusiform gyrus) during the presentation of social stimuli. In a pharmacological cross-over design 55 participants were investigated under OT and placebo (PLA) by means of fMRI. Brain imaging results revealed no significant effects for VTA or ventral striatum. Regarding the fusiform gyrus, we could not find any effects apart from those already described in Sauer et al. (2012). Analyses of amygdala activation resulted in no gene main effect, no gene × substance interaction but a significant gene × gene × substance interaction. While under PLA the effect of CD38 on bilateral amygdala activation to social stimuli was modulated by the COMT genotype, no such epistasis effect was found under OT. Our results provide evidence for an OT × DA interaction during responses to social stimuli. We postulate that the effect of central OT secretion on amygdala response is modulated by the availability of DA. Therefore, for an understanding of the effect of social hormones on social behavior, interactions of OT with other transmitter systems have to be taken into account.


23554586 [PubMed]



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