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Horm Behav. 2013 Jun;64(1):53-69. doi: 10.1016/j.yhbeh.2013.04.010. Epub 2013 May 3.

Mesotocin and maternal care of chicks in native Thai hens (Gallus domesticus).

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School of Biology, Institute of Science, Suranaree University of Technology, Thailand.


Oxytocin (OT) is known to induce and regulate maternal behaviors in mammals via the supraoptic nucleus and paraventricular nucleus (PVN), whereas the function of mesotocin (MT; the avian homolog of OT) is poorly understood in birds. To elucidate the association of MT and the regulation of maternal behaviors in birds, we studied changes in the number of MT-immunoreactive (ir) neurons in native Thai chickens using immunohistochemistry. We observed that MT-ir neurons and fibers appeared in discrete regions located close to the third ventricle from the level of the preoptic area through the anterior hypothalamus with an abundance observed in the nucleus supraopticus, pars ventralis (SOv), nucleus preopticus medialis (POM), and PVN. The number of MT-ir neurons was low in the SOv, POM, and PVN of non-laying hens, but it increased gradually when the hens entered the laying stage, and peaked in incubating and rearing hens. We compared the number of MT-ir neurons in the SOv, POM, and PVN of native Thai hens rearing chicks (R) with that of non-rearing chicks (NR). The number of MT-ir neurons was high in the R hens, but low in the NR hens in these nuclei. For the first time, these results indicate that the association between the MT neurons and the presence of chicks might, in part, play a role in the neuroendocrine reorganization to establish and maintain maternal behaviors in native Thai chickens. MTergic activity is likely related to the contribution of rearing behavior in this equatorial precocial species.

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