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Neuropsychopharmacology. 2007 May;32(5):977-88. Epub 2006 Oct 11.

The interface of oxytocin-labeled cells and serotonin transporter-containing fibers in the primate hypothalamus: a substrate for SSRIs therapeutic effects?

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Department of Medicine, Universidade Federal da Bahia, Bahia, Brazil.


Oxytocin (OT) is a neuropeptide synthesized in the paraventricular (PVN) and supraoptic nuclei (SON) in the hypothalamus. Although OT is more commonly known for its role in the milk-ejection reflex, in recent years research has indicated that OT participates in the expression of social behavior, memory processing, modulation of fear, and stress responses. The demonstration that OT influences affiliative behaviors, such as parental care and reproduction, and decreases anxiety has lead to speculations that it may have a role in mood disorders. Evidence from pharmacologic studies, pointing out the modulation of the OT system by serotonin, has argued in favor of OT as a mediator of serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) antidepressant properties. In the present study, we investigated the distribution and overlap of OT-labeled cells and serotonin transporter (5-HTT) immunoreactive (IR) fibers in the Macaque hypothalamus, utilizing immunocytochemical and double-immunofluorescent techniques. Consistent with previous reports, the distribution of OT-labeled cells in the hypothalamus is confined to the PVN and SON. In these nuclei, we demonstrate that the distribution of 5-HTT-labeled fibers follows the distribution of OT-labeled cells. Overlap of OT-labeled neurons and 5-HTT-IR fibers occurs in the parvicellular, magnocellular, dorsal, and posterior subdivisions of the PVN. In the SON, 5-HTT-labeled fibers and OT-labeled cells overlap in the ventromedial subdivision and in the 'capsular' part of the dorsolateral SON. These findings provide neuroanatomic support for the idea that SSRIs' therapeutic effects on social affiliation and anxiety may be mediated in part through components of the OT system.

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