Oxytocin and vasopressin modulation of social anxiety following adolescent intermittent ethanol exposure

Carol A. Dannenhoffer, Esther U. Kim, Jessica Saalfield, David F. Werner, Elena I. Varlinskaya, Linda P. Spear

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

32 Scopus citations


Rationale: Adolescent intermittent ethanol exposure (AIE) produces lasting, sex-specific social anxiety-like alterations in male, but not female rats. Oxytocin (OXT) and vasopressin (AVP) brain systems play opposite roles in regulating social preference/avoidance, with OXT increasing approach to, and AVP increasing avoidance of social stimuli. Objectives: To test the hypothesis that social anxiety-like alterations seen in adult males after AIE are associated with a shift in the balance between OXT and AVP toward AVP, effectiveness of pharmacological activation of the OXT system and blockade of endogenous activity at AVP receptors for reversing AIE-induced social anxiety-like alterations was assessed, along with examination of the effects of AIE on OXT, vasopressin V1a, and V1b receptor (OXT-R, V1a-R, and V1b-R) surface expression in the hypothalamus. Methods: Sprague-Dawley male and female rats were given 4 g/kg ethanol (AIE) or water intragastrically every 48 h for a total of 11 exposures during postnatal days (P) 25–45. On P70–72, animals were given a social interaction test following administration of a selective OXT-R agonist WAY-267464, selective V1a-R antagonist SR-49059, or V1b-R antagonist SSR-149415, and hypothalamic tissue was collected. Results: Social anxiety-like behavior was induced by AIE in males but not females, and was selectively reversed by the selective OXT-R agonist and V1b-R antagonist, but not V1a-R antagonist. AIE was also found to decrease OXT-R, but increase V1b-R neuronal surface expression relative to water-exposed controls in the hypothalamus of males, but not females. Conclusions: These findings demonstrate that AIE induces changes in OXT-R and AVP-R surface expression in the hypothalamus along with social anxiety-like alterations in male rats. These social anxiety-like alterations can be reversed either by activation of the OXT system or by suppression of the AVP system, data that support the hypothesis that social anxiety-like alterations induced by adolescent alcohol exposure in male rats are associated at least in part with an OXT/AVP imbalance.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3065-3077
Number of pages13
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 1 2018

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Pharmacology


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