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Science 314 (5806): 1788-1792

Copyright © 2006 by the American Association for the Advancement of Science

Maternal Oxytocin Triggers a Transient Inhibitory Switch in GABA Signaling in the Fetal Brain During Delivery

Roman Tyzio,1 Rosa Cossart,1 Ilgam Khalilov,1 Marat Minlebaev,1 Christian A. Hübner,2 Alfonso Represa,1 Yehezkel Ben-Ari,1* Rustem Khazipov1

Abstract: We report a signaling mechanism in rats between mother and fetus aimed at preparing fetal neurons for delivery. In immature neurons, {gamma}-aminobutyric acid (GABA) is the primary excitatory neurotransmitter. We found that, shortly before delivery, there is a transient reduction in the intracellular chloride concentration and an excitatory-to-inhibitory switch of GABA actions. These events were triggered by oxytocin, an essential maternal hormone for labor. In vivo administration of an oxytocin receptor antagonist before delivery prevented the switch of GABA actions in fetal neurons and aggravated the severity of anoxic episodes. Thus, maternal oxytocin inhibits fetal neurons and increases their resistance to insults during delivery.

1 Institut de Neurobiologie de la Méditerranée, INSERM U29, Université de la Méditerranée, Campus Scientifique de Luminy, Boite Postale 13, 13273 Marseille Cedex 09, France.
2 Institut für Humangenetik, Universitätsklinikum Hamburg-Eppendorf, 20251 Hamburg, Germany.

* To whom correspondence should be addressed. E-mail: ben-ari{at}

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