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Horm Behav. 2000 Mar;37(2):145-55.

Infant vocalization, adult aggression, and fear behavior of an oxytocin null mutant mouse.

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Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Emory University School of Medicine, Atlanta, Georgia 30322, USA.


Previous studies have shown that oxytocin (OT)-deficient female mice produced by homologous recombination fail to lactate but exhibit normal parturition and reproductive behaviors. We examined the ultrasonic vocalizations of infant mice and the subsequent aggressive and fear behavior of adult male OT knockout (OT-KO) mice. Infant OT-KO mice were less vocal than wild-type (WT) control mice during separations from the mother and peers. Adult OT-KO males were generally more aggressive in isolation-induced and resident-intruder tests of aggression and less fearful in the plus maze and acoustic startle reflex tests than WT controls. Although the increase in tests of aggression was robust for OT-KO males from obligate litters (progeny of homozygous x homozygous crossings), the increase in aggression was reduced during tests for OT-KO males derived from nonobligate mating (progeny of heterozygous x heterozygous crossings), suggesting that the OT-KO genotype was not, by itself, responsible for the changes in adult behavior. We conclude that the absence of exposure to OT during development was associated with abnormalities in the development of emotional behavior.

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