Molecular Mechanisms Regulating Oxytocin Gene Expression

  • Hans H. Zingg
  • Stéphane Richard
  • Diana L. Lefebvre
Part of the Serono Symposia USA Norwell, Massachusetts book series (SERONOSYMP)


The hypothalamic nonapeptide oxytocin (OT) acts as a circulating hormone and as a neurotransmitter. Moreover, peripherally produced OT may function as a paracrine mediator. Despite the manifold sites of OT secretion and OT action, all its diverse effects are intimately related to the physiology of reproduction. During parturition, circulating OT regulates the contraction of uterine smooth muscle and, during lactation, OT triggers milk ejection by its action on myoepithelial cells of the mammary gland (1). At the level of the pituitary, OT stimulates prolactin release (2). In addition, parvicellular OT neurons project to distinct areas in the brain and the spinal cord, where OT functions as a neurotransmitter. In the female rat, OT’s central actions include facilitation of specific sexual behavior, as well as induction of maternal behavior (nesting and pup-gathering) (3, 4). Also, in the male specific central actions have been assigned to OT. These include the strange combination of penile erection and yawning (5). Whereas the close relationship of the former phenomenon to reproduction has long been established, the significance of the latter reflex remains less clear in the present context. OT-like immunoreactivity has also been demonstrated in the ovary, testis, placenta, and adrenal. Ovarian OT is thought to act on uterine prostaglandin production and can thus promote luteal regression (6).


Penile Erection Retinoic Acid Response Element Luteal Regression Estrogen Responsiveness SV40 Early Promoter 
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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag New York, Inc. 1993

Authors and Affiliations

  • Hans H. Zingg
  • Stéphane Richard
  • Diana L. Lefebvre

There are no affiliations available

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