Oxytocin, vasopressin and estrogen receptor gene expression in relation to social recognition in female mice.
Inter- and intra-species differences in social behavior and recognition-related hormones and receptors suggest that different distribution and/or expression patterns may relate to social recognition. We used qRT-PCR to investigate naturally occurring differences in expression of estrogen receptor-alpha (ERα), ER-beta (ERβ), progesterone receptor (PR), oxytocin (OT) and receptor, and vasopressin (AVP) and receptors in proestrous female mice. Following four 5 min exposures to the same two conspecifics, one was replaced with a novel mouse in the final trial (T5). Gene expression was examined in mice showing high (85-100%) and low (40-60%) social recognition scores (i.e., preferential novel mouse investigation in T5) in eight socially-relevant brain regions. Results supported OT and AVP involvement in social recognition, and suggest that in the medial preoptic area, increased OT and AVP mRNA, together with ERα and ERβ gene activation, relate to improved social recognition. Initial social investigation correlated with ERs, PR and OTR in the dorsolateral septum, suggesting that these receptors may modulate social interest without affecting social recognition. Finally, increased lateral amygdala gene activation in the LR mice may be associated with general learning impairments, while decreased lateral amygdala activity may indicate more efficient cognitive mechanisms in the HR mice. Copyright © 2011 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.