Shedding light on oxytocin, the happy hormone

Overview: A newly developed fluorescent sensor can detect oxytocin in live animals.

Source: University of Osaka

Twinkling lights enhance the view of the city at night and can evoke feelings of romance and happiness. But what do those feelings look like in the brain?

Recently, researchers in Japan showed that the power of light can also be used to control the release of the “happy hormone” oxytocin (OT), a peptide produced in the brain that is associated with feelings of happiness and love.

In a new study published in Nature Methods, researchers led by Osaka University reported their development of a new fluorescent sensor for the detection of OT in live animals. OT plays an important role in a variety of physiological processes, including emotion, appetite, childbirth and aging.

Impairment of OT signaling is believed to be associated with neurological disorders such as autism and schizophrenia, and a better understanding of OT dynamics in the brain may provide insight into these disorders and contribute to potential treatment options.

Previous methods of detecting and monitoring OT were limited in their ability to accurately reflect dynamic changes in extracellular OT levels over time. Therefore, the research team led by the University of Osaka sought to create an efficient tool to visualize OT release in the brain.

“Using the medaka fish oxytocin receptor as a scaffold, we have developed a highly specific, ultra-sensitive green fluorescent OT sensor called MTRIAOTsaid lead author of the study, Daisuke Ino.

“Binding of extracellular OT leads to an increase in the fluorescence intensity of MTRIAOTallowing us to monitor extracellular OT levels in real time.”

The research team performed cell culture analyzes to evaluate the performance of MTRIA. to investigateOT. Subsequent application of MTRIAOT in the brains of live animals allowed for the successful measurement of OT dynamics using fluorescence recording techniques.

This shows the circumference of a head
OT plays an important role in a variety of physiological processes, including emotion, appetite, childbirth and aging. Image is in the public domain

“We examined the effects of potential factors that may influence OT dynamics, including social interaction, anesthesia, diet, and aging,” Ino says.

The research team’s analyzes revealed variability in brain OT dynamics that depended on the animals’ behavioral and physical conditions. Interactions with other animals, exposure to anesthesia, food deprivation, and aging all correlated with specific patterns of brain OT levels.

These findings indicate that MTRIAOT may serve as a useful tool to advance our understanding of OT dynamics in the brain. Since abnormalities in OT signaling are believed to be related to mental disorders, this tool could pave the way for the development of new therapies to treat these diseases.

In addition, the researchers found that the MTRIA backbone used to design the OT sensor can also serve as a scaffold to make sensors for other important brain hormones and neurotransmitters.

About this oxytocin research news

Author: press office
Source: University of Osaka
Contact: Press Office – University of Osaka
Image: The image is in the public domain

Original research: Open access.
“A fluorescent sensor for real-time measurement of extracellular oxytocin dynamics in the brain” by Daisuke Ino et al. Nature Methods

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Abstract

A fluorescent sensor for real-time measurement of extracellular oxytocin dynamics in the brain

Oxytocin (OT), a hypothalamic neuropeptide that acts as a neuromodulator in the brain, orchestrates a variety of animal behaviors.

However, the relationship between brain OT dynamics and complex animal behavior remains largely elusive, in part due to the lack of a suitable technique for the real-time recording in vivo.

Here we describe MTRIAOTa G protein-coupled receptor-based green fluorescent OT sensor with wide dynamic range, appropriate affinity, ligand specificity for OT orthologs, minimal effects on downstream signaling, and long-term fluorescence stability.

By combining viral gene delivery and fiber photometry-mediated fluorescence measurements, we demonstrate the utility of MTRIAOT for real-time detection of brain OT dynamics in live mice.

MTRIAOT-mediated measurements indicate variability of OT dynamics depending on an animal’s behavioral context and physical condition. MTRIAOT is likely to enable the analysis of OT dynamics in a variety of physiological and pathological processes.

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