Oxytocin-dependent consolation behavior in rodents.
ABSTRACT: Consolation behavior toward distressed others is common in humans and great apes, yet our ability to explore the biological mechanisms underlying this behavior is limited by its apparent absence in laboratory animals. Here, we provide empirical evidence that a rodent species, the highly social and monogamous prairie vole (Microtus ochrogaster), greatly increases partner-directed grooming toward familiar conspecifics (but not strangers) that have experienced an unobserved stressor, providing social buffering. Prairie voles also match the fear response, anxiety-related behaviors, and corticosterone increase of the stressed cagemate, suggesting an empathy mechanism. Exposure to the stressed cagemate increases activity in the anterior cingulate cortex, and oxytocin receptor antagonist infused into this region abolishes the partner-directed response, showing conserved neural mechanisms between prairie vole and human.
Project description:The prairie vole (Microtus ochrogaster) is an important model for the study of social monogamy and dual parental care of offspring. Characterization of specific host species-microbe strain interactions is critical for understanding the effects of the microbiota on mood and behavior. The five metagenome-assembled genome sequences reported here represent an important step in defining the prairie vole microbiome.
Project description:In the socially monogamous prairie vole (Microtus ochrogaster), mating induces enduring pair-bonds that are initiated by partner preference formation and regulated by a variety of neurotransmitters, including oxytocin, vasopressin and dopamine. We examined potential epigenetic mechanisms mediating pair-bond regulation and found that the histone deacetylase inhibitors sodium butyrate and trichostatin A (TSA) facilitated partner preference formation in female prairie voles in the absence of mating. This was associated with a specific upregulation of oxytocin receptor (OTR, oxtr) and vasopressin V1a receptor (V1aR, avpr1a) in the nucleus accumbens (NAcc), through an increase in histone acetylation at their respective promoters. Furthermore, TSA-facilitated partner preference was prevented by OTR or V1aR blockade in the NAcc. Notably, mating-induced partner preference triggered the same epigenetic regulation of oxtr and avpr1a gene promoters as TSA. These observations indicate that TSA and mating facilitate partner preference through epigenetic events, providing, to the best of our knowledge, the first direct evidence for epigenetic regulation of pair-bonding.
Project description:Previous studies have related pair-bonding in <i>Microtus ochrogaster</i>, the prairie vole, with plastic changes in several brain regions. However, the interactions between these socially relevant regions have yet to be described. In this study, we used resting-state magnetic resonance imaging to explore bonding behaviors and functional connectivity of brain regions previously associated with pair-bonding. Thirty-two male and female prairie voles were scanned at baseline, 24 hr, and 2 weeks after the onset of cohabitation. By using network-based statistics, we identified that the functional connectivity of a corticostriatal network predicted the onset of affiliative behavior, while another predicted the amount of social interaction during a partner preference test. Furthermore, a network with significant changes in time was revealed, also showing associations with the level of partner preference. Overall, our findings revealed the association between network-level functional connectivity changes and social bonding.
Project description:Consolation, i.e., postconflict affiliative interaction directed from a third party to the recipient of aggression, is assumed to have a stress-alleviating function. This function, however, has never been demonstrated. This study shows that consolation in chimpanzees reduces behavioral measures of stress in recipients of aggression. Furthermore, consolation was more likely to occur in the absence of reconciliation, i.e., postconflict affiliative interaction between former opponents. Consolation therefore may act as an alternative to reconciliation when the latter does not occur. In the debate about empathy in great apes, evidence for the stress-alleviating function of consolation in chimpanzees provides support for the argument that consolation could be critical behavior. Consistent with the argument that relationship quality affects their empathic responses, we found that consolation was more likely between individuals with more valuable relationships. Chimpanzees may thus respond to distressed valuable partners by consoling them, thereby reducing their stress levels, especially in the absence of reconciliation.
Project description:The prairie vole (Microtus ochrogaster) is an important model organism for the study of social behavior, yet our ability to correlate genes and behavior in this species has been limited due to a lack of genetic and genomic resources. Here we report the BAC-based targeted sequencing of behaviorally-relevant genes and flanking regions in the prairie vole. A total of 6.4 Mb of non-redundant or haplotype-specific sequence assemblies were generated that span the partial or complete sequence of 21 behaviorally-relevant genes as well as an additional 55 flanking genes. Estimates of nucleotide diversity from 13 loci based on alignments of 1.7 Mb of haplotype-specific assemblies revealed an average pair-wise heterozygosity (8.4×10(-3)). Comparative analyses of the prairie vole proteins encoded by the behaviorally-relevant genes identified >100 substitutions specific to the prairie vole lineage. Finally, our sequencing data indicate that a duplication of the prairie vole AVPR1A locus likely originated from a recent segmental duplication spanning a minimum of 105 kb. In summary, the results of our study provide the genomic resources necessary for the molecular and genetic characterization of a high-priority set of candidate genes for regulating social behavior in the prairie vole.
Project description:The prairie vole (Microtus ochrogaster) is an emerging rodent model for investigating the genetics, evolution and molecular mechanisms of social behavior. Though a karyotype for the prairie vole has been reported and low-resolution comparative cytogenetic analyses have been done in this species, other basic genetic resources for this species, such as a genetic linkage map, are lacking.Here we report the construction of a genome-wide linkage map of the prairie vole. The linkage map consists of 406 markers that are spaced on average every 7 Mb and span an estimated ~90% of the genome. The sex average length of the linkage map is 1707 cM, which, like other Muroid rodent linkage maps, is on the lower end of the length distribution of linkage maps reported to date for placental mammals. Linkage groups were assigned to 19 out of the 26 prairie vole autosomes as well as the X chromosome. Comparative analyses of the prairie vole linkage map based on the location of 387 Type I markers identified 61 large blocks of synteny with the mouse genome. In addition, the results of the comparative analyses revealed a potential elevated rate of inversions in the prairie vole lineage compared to the laboratory mouse and rat.A genetic linkage map of the prairie vole has been constructed and represents the fourth genome-wide high-resolution linkage map reported for Muroid rodents and the first for a member of the Arvicolinae sub-family. This resource will advance studies designed to dissect the genetic basis of a variety of social behaviors and other traits in the prairie vole as well as our understanding of genome evolution in the genus Microtus.
Project description:The prairie vole (Microtus ochrogaster) is a premier animal model for understanding the genetic and neurological basis of social behaviors. Unlike other biomedical models, prairie voles display a rich repertoire of social behaviors including the formation of long-term pair bonds and biparental care. However, due to a lack of genomic resources for this species, studies have been limited to a handful of candidate genes. To provide a substrate for future development of genomic resources for this unique model organism, we report the construction and characterization of a bacterial artificial chromosome (BAC) library from a single male prairie vole and a prairie vole-mouse (Mus musculus) comparative cytogenetic map.We constructed a prairie vole BAC library (CHORI-232) consisting of 194,267 recombinant clones with an average insert size of 139 kb. Hybridization-based screening of the gridded library at 19 loci established that the library has an average depth of coverage of approximately 10x. To obtain a small-scale sampling of the prairie vole genome, we generated 3884 BAC end-sequences totaling approximately 2.8 Mb. One-third of these BAC-end sequences could be mapped to unique locations in the mouse genome, thereby anchoring 1003 prairie vole BAC clones to an orthologous position in the mouse genome. Fluorescence in situ hybridization (FISH) mapping of 62 prairie vole clones with BAC-end sequences mapping to orthologous positions in the mouse genome was used to develop a first-generation genome-wide prairie vole-mouse comparative cytogenetic map. While conserved synteny was observed between this pair of rodent genomes, rearrangements between the prairie vole and mouse genomes were detected, including a minimum of five inversions and 16 inter-chromosomal rearrangements.The construction of the prairie vole BAC library and the vole-mouse comparative cytogenetic map represent the first genome-wide modern genomic resources developed for this species. The BAC library will support future genomic, genetic and molecular characterization of this genome and species, and the isolation of clones of high interest to the vole research community will allow for immediate characterization of the regulatory and coding sequences of genes known to play important roles in social behaviors. In addition, these resources provide an excellent platform for future higher resolution cytogenetic mapping and full genome sequencing.
Project description:Despite significant evidence that opioids are involved in attachment by mediating social reward and motivation, the role of opioids in the formation of adult social attachments has not been explored. We used the socially monogamous prairie vole (Microtus ochrogaster) to explore the role of endogenous opioids in social bonding by examining partner preference formation in female prairie voles. We hypothesized that ?-opioid receptors (MORs) in the striatum have a critical role in partner preference formation. We therefore predicted that peripheral administration of an opioid receptor antagonist would inhibit partner preference formation, and more specifically, that ?-opioid selective receptor blockade within the striatum would inhibit partner preference formation. To test our hypotheses, we first administered the non-selective opioid antagonist naltrexone peripherally to females during an 18-h cohabitation with a male and later tested the female with a partner preference test (PPT). Females showed a dose schedule-dependent decrease in partner preference in the PPT, with females in the continuous dose group displaying stranger preferences. Next, we administered microinjections of the MOR selective antagonist D-Phe-Cys-Tyr-D-Trp-Arg-Thr-Pen-Thr-NH2 (CTAP) into either the nucleus accumbens shell (NAS) or the caudate-putamen (CP) immediately before a 24-h cohabitation with a male, and later tested the female with a PPT. Females receiving CTAP into the CP, but not the NAS, showed no preference in the PPT, indicating an inhibition of partner preference formation. We show here for the first time that MORs modulate partner preference formation in female prairie voles by acting in the CP.
Project description:Post-aggression consolation is assumed to occur in humans as well as in chimpanzees. While consolation following peer aggression has been observed in children, systematic evidence of consolation in human adults is rare. We used surveillance camera footage of the immediate aftermath of nonfatal robberies to observe the behaviors and characteristics of victims and bystanders. Consistent with empathy explanations, we found that consolation was linked to social closeness rather than physical closeness. While females were more likely to console than males, males and females were equally likely to be consoled. Furthermore, we show that high levels of threat during the robbery increased the likelihood of receiving consolation afterwards. These patterns resemble post-aggression consolation in chimpanzees and suggest that emotions of empathic concern are involved in consolation across humans and chimpanzees.
Project description:BACKGROUND:Consolation is a type of empathy-like behavior that has recently been observed in some socially living rodents. Despite the growing body of literature suggesting that stress affects empathy, the relationship between stress and consolation remains understudied at the preclinical level. Here, we examined the effects of chronic emotional stress or physical stress exposure on consolation and emotional behaviors by using the socially monogamous mandarin vole (Microtus mandarinus) in both males and females. METHOD/RESULTS:Physical stress voles were exposed to 14-day social defeat stress, whereas emotional stress voles vicariously experienced the defeat of their partners. We found that physical stress, but not emotional stress, voles showed reduced grooming toward their defeated partners and increased anxiety- and despair-like behaviors. Meanwhile, physical stress voles exhibited decreased neural activity in the anterior cingulate cortex, which is centrally involved in empathy. The densities of oxytocin receptors, dopamine D2 receptors, and serotonin 1A-receptors within the anterior cingulate cortex were significantly decreased in the physical stress group compared with controls. All the behavioral and physiological changes were similar between the sexes. Finally, we found that the reduced consolation behavior and some anxiety-like syndromes in physical stress voles could be alleviated by pretreatment with an oxytocin receptor, D2 receptors, or serotonin 1A-receptor agonist within the anterior cingulate cortex, whereas injections of corresponding receptor antagonists to the control voles decreased the consolation behavior and increased some anxiety-like behaviors. CONCLUSIONS:Our results indicated that chronic physical stress exposure impaired consolation and induced anxiety-like behaviors in mandarin voles and oxytocin receptors, 5-HT1A receptors, and D2 receptors within the anterior cingulate cortex may play important roles in these processes.