Oxytocin (Oxt) neurons regulate diverse physiological responses via direct connections with different neural circuits. However, the lack of comprehensive input-output wiring diagrams of Oxt neurons and their quantitative relationship with Oxt receptor (Oxtr) expression presents challenges to understanding circuit-specific Oxt functions. Here, we establish a whole-brain distribution and anatomic connectivity map of Oxt neurons, and their relationship with Oxtr expression using high-resolution 3D mapping methods in adult male and female mice. We use a flatmap to describe Oxt neuronal expression in four hypothalamic domains including under-characterized Oxt neurons in the tuberal nucleus (TU). Oxt neurons in the paraventricular hypothalamus (PVH) broadly project to nine functional circuits that control cognition, brain state, and somatic visceral response. In contrast, Oxt neurons in the supraoptic (SO) and accessory (AN) nuclei have limited central projection to a small subset of the nine circuits. Surprisingly, quantitative comparison between Oxt output and Oxtr expression showed no significant correlation across the whole brain, suggesting abundant indirect Oxt signaling in Oxtr-expressing areas. Unlike output, Oxt neurons in both the PVH and SO receive similar monosynaptic inputs from a subset of the nine circuits mainly in the thalamic, hypothalamic, and cerebral nuclei areas. Our results suggest that PVH-Oxt neurons serve as a central modulator to integrate external and internal information via largely reciprocal connection with the nine circuits while the SO-Oxt neurons act mainly as unidirectional Oxt hormonal output. In summary, our Oxt wiring diagram provides anatomic insights about distinct behavioral functions of Oxt signaling in the brain.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)5021-5033
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Neuroscience
Issue number25
StatePublished - Jun 22 2022

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Neuroscience


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