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Science 338 (6106): 540-543

Copyright © 2012 by the American Association for the Advancement of Science

Oxytocin/Vasopressin-Related Peptides Have an Ancient Role in Reproductive Behavior

Jennifer L. Garrison, Evan Z. Macosko, Samantha Bernstein, Navin Pokala, Dirk R. Albrecht, Cornelia I. Bargmann

Abstract: Many biological functions are conserved, but the extent to which conservation applies to integrative behaviors is unknown. Vasopressin and oxytocin neuropeptides are strongly implicated in mammalian reproductive and social behaviors, yet rodent loss-of-function mutants have relatively subtle behavioral defects. Here we identify an oxytocin/vasopressin-like signaling system in Caenorhabditis elegans, consisting of a peptide and two receptors that are expressed in sexually dimorphic patterns. Males lacking the peptide or its receptors perform poorly in reproductive behaviors, including mate search, mate recognition, and mating, but other sensorimotor behaviors are intact. Quantitative analysis indicates that mating motor patterns are fragmented and inefficient in mutants, suggesting that oxytocin/vasopressin peptides increase the coherence of mating behaviors. These results indicate that conserved molecules coordinate diverse behavioral motifs in reproductive behavior.

Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Lulu and Anthony Wang Laboratory of Neural Circuits and Behavior, The Rockefeller University, New York, NY 10065, USA.

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