Ventral Striatopallidal Oxytocin and Vasopressin V1a Receptors in the Monogamous Prairie Vole (Microtus ochrogaster)

Miranda M. Lim, Anne Z. Murphy, Larry J. Young

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

149 Scopus citations


Oxytocin receptors (OTR) and vasopressin V1a receptors (V1aR) in the ventral forebrain play critical roles in the formation of pair bonds in the monogamous prairie vole. Previous reports have been inconsistent in the identification of the specific brain regions in the ventral forebrain that express these receptors. To delineate more clearly the neuroanatomical boundaries of the OTR and V1aR fields in this species, we compared OTR and V1aR binding in adjacent brain sections and also with markers that delineate neuroanatomical boundaries in the ventral forebrain. OTR binding displayed an overlapping distribution with substance P mRNA and preproenkephalin mRNA, both markers for the shell and core of the nucleus accumbens. V1aR binding was nonoverlapping with each of these markers but colocalized with iron accumulation as shown by Perls' iron stain as well as leucine-enkephalin immunoreactivity, both markers for the ventral pallidum. OTR and V1aR mRNA were also restricted within the nucleus accumbens and ventral pallidum, respectively. Furthermore, destruction of ventral striatal dopaminergic terminals with 6-hydroxydopamine infusions into the nucleus accumbens did not alter OTR binding. Immunocytochemical analysis of oxytocin and vasopressin in the ventral forebrain demonstrated the presence of oxytocin-immunoreactive fibers in the nucleus accumbens and vasopressin-immunoreactive fibers in the ventral pallidum, with males showing a greater density of vasopressin fibers than females, but there was no such sex difference in the oxytocin system. Based on these results, we discuss potential neural mechanisms by which receptors in these brain regions mediate pair bond formation in this monogamous species.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)555-570
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Comparative Neurology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jan 19 2004
Externally publishedYes


  • Dopamine
  • Monogamy
  • Nucleus accumbens
  • Ventral pallidum

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)


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