Shedding light on oxytocin, the happiness hormone

Summary: A newly developed fluorescent sensor is able to detect oxytocin in live animals.

Source: University of Osaka

The flickering lights make the city view even more beautiful at night and can evoke a feeling of romance and happiness. But what do these feelings look like in the brain?

Recently, scientists in Japan showed that the power of light can also be used to monitor the release of the ‘happiness 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’s Methods, scientists led by the University of Osaka announced the development of a novel fluorescent sensor for detecting OT in live animals. OT plays an important role in various physiological processes such as emotions, appetite, childbirth, and aging.

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

Previous methods of detecting and monitoring OT have had a limited ability to accurately reflect dynamic changes in extracellular levels of OT over time. Consequently, a research team led by the University of Osaka sought to create an effective tool for visualizing the release of OT in the brain.

“Using the oxytocin receptor from medaka fish as a scaffold, we designed a highly specific, ultra-sensitive green fluorescent OT sensor called MTRIAOT‚ÄĚSays lead author of the study, Daisuke Ino.

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

The research team performed cell culture analyzes to investigate MTRIA performanceOT. Subsequent use of MTRIAOT in the brains of live animals allowed the successful measurement of OT dynamics using fluorescence recording techniques.

OT plays an important role in various physiological processes such as emotions, appetite, childbirth, and aging. The image is in the public domain

“We examined the impact of potential factors that could influence the dynamics of OT, including social interactions, anesthesia, feeding, and aging,” says Ino.

The research team’s analysis revealed a variation in the dynamics of OT in the brain dependent on the behavioral and physical conditions of the animals. Interactions with other animals, exposure to anesthesia, food shortage, and aging corresponded to specific patterns of levels of OT in the brain.

These results indicate that MTRIAOT may serve as a useful tool to better understand the dynamics of OT in the brain. As the abnormalities in OT signaling are believed to be related to mental disorders, this tool could pave the way for the development of new therapeutic agents for treating these diseases.

In addition, scientists discovered that the MTRIA backbone used to construct the OT sensor could also serve as a scaffold to create sensors for other important brain hormones and neurotransmitters.

About the research news on oxytocin

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.
“Fluorescence sensor for real-time measurement of extracellular dynamics of oxytocin in the brain” by Daisuke Ino et al. Nature’s Methods

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Abstract

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

Oxytocin (OT), a hypothalamic neuropeptide that acts as a neuromodulator in the brain, coordinates various animal behaviors.

However, the relationship between brain OT dynamics and complex animal behavior remains largely elusive, in part due to the lack of an appropriate technique to record it in real time in vivo.

Here we describe the MTRIAOTgreen fluorescent OT sensor based on a G protein-coupled receptor which has a high dynamic range, adequate affinity, ligand specificity for OT orthologists, minimal downward signaling influence and long-term stability of fluorescence.

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

MTRIAOTMediated measurements indicate variability in OT dynamics depending on the behavioral context and the physical condition of the animal. MTRIAOT is likely to enable the analysis of OT dynamics in various physiological and pathological processes.

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