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  • Impaired approach to novelty and striatal alterations in the oxytocin receptor deficient mouse model of autism.

Impaired approach to novelty and striatal alterations in the oxytocin receptor deficient mouse model of autism.

Hormones and behavior (2019-06-21)
Marianna Leonzino, Luisa Ponzoni, Daniela Braida, Valentina Gigliucci, Marta Busnelli, Ilaria Ceresini, Natalia Duque-Wilckens, Katsuhiko Nishimori, Brian C Trainor, Mariaelvina Sala, Bice Chini
ABSTRACT

Long-standing studies established a role for the oxytocin system in social behavior, social reward, pair bonding and affiliation. Oxytocin receptors, implicated in pathological conditions affecting the social sphere such as autism spectrum disorders, can also modulate cognitive processes, an aspect generally overlooked. Here we examined the effect of acute (pharmacological) or genetic (Oxtr-/-) inactivation of oxytocin receptor-mediated signaling, in male mice, in several cognitive tests. In the novel object recognition test, both oxytocin receptor antagonist treated wild type animals and Oxtr-/- mice lacked the typical preference for novelty. Oxtr-/- mice even preferred the familiar object; moreover, their performance in the Morris water maze did not differ from wild types, suggesting that oxytocin receptor inactivation did not disrupt learning. Because the preference for novel objects could be rescued in Oxtr-/- mice with longer habituation periods, we propose that the loss of novelty preferences following Oxtr inactivation is due to altered processing of novel contextual information. Finally, we observed an increased expression of excitatory synaptic markers in the striatum of Oxtr-/- mice and a greater arborization and higher number of spines/neuron in the dorsolateral area of this structure, which drives habit formation. Our data also indicate a specific reshaping of dorsolateral striatal spines in Oxtr-/- mice after exposure to a novel environment, which might subtend their altered approach to novelty, and support previous work pointing at this structure as an important substrate for autistic behaviors.

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L-368,899, ≥98% (HPLC), powder