Oxytocin and Steroid Actions

  • Gustav F. JirikowskiEmail author
  • Scott D. Ochs
  • Jack D. Caldwell
Part of the Current Topics in Behavioral Neurosciences book series (CTBN, volume 35)


Biosynthesis and secretion of the hypothalamic nonapeptide oxytocin largely depends on steroid hormones. Estradiol, corticosterone, and vitamin D seem to be the most prominent actors. Due to their lipophilic nature, systemic steroids are thought to be capable of crossing the blood–brain barrier, thus mediating central functions including neuroendocrine and behavioral control. The actual mode of action of steroids in hypothalamic circuitry is still unknown: Most of the oxytocinergic perikarya lack nuclear steroid receptors but express proteins suspected to be membrane receptors for steroids. Oxytocin expressing neurons contain enzymes important for intrinsic steroid metabolism. Furthermore, they produce and probably liberate specific steroid-binding globulins. Rapid responses to steroid hormones may involve these binding proteins and membrane-associated receptors, rather than classic nuclear receptors and genomic pathways. Neuroendocrine regulation, reproductive behaviors, and stress response seem to depend on these mechanisms.


Gonadal steroid hormones Neuroendocrine regulation Nuclear receptors Steroid binding globulins Stress response 


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© Springer International Publishing AG 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Gustav F. Jirikowski
    • 1
    Email author
  • Scott D. Ochs
    • 2
  • Jack D. Caldwell
    • 2
  1. 1.Inst. Anatomy IIJena University HospitalJenaGermany
  2. 2.Dept. of PharmacologyVia College of Osteopathic MedicineSpartanburgUSA

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