Early nurture epigenetically tunes the oxytocin receptor.

Journal Article (Journal Article)

Mammalian sociality is regulated in part by the neuropeptide oxytocin. In prairie voles, subtle variation in early life experience changes oxytocin receptor-mediated social behaviors. We report that low levels of early care in voles leads to de novo DNA methylation at specific regulatory sites in the oxytocin receptor gene (Oxtr), impacting gene expression and protein distribution in the nucleus accumbens. DNA methylation state of the blood predicts expression in the brain indicating the utility of the blood as a biomarker for the transcription state of the brain. These experience-sensitive CpG sites are conserved in humans, are related to gene expression in the brain, and have been associated with psychiatric disorders and individual differences in neural response to social stimuli. These results identify a mechanism by which early care regulates later displays of typical prairie vole social behavior and suggest the potential for nurture driven epigenetic tuning of OXTR in humans.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Perkeybile, AM; Carter, CS; Wroblewski, KL; Puglia, MH; Kenkel, WM; Lillard, TS; Karaoli, T; Gregory, SG; Mohammadi, N; Epstein, L; Bales, KL; Connelly, JJ

Published Date

  • January 2019

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 99 /

Start / End Page

  • 128 - 136

PubMed ID

  • 30227351

Pubmed Central ID

  • PMC6231974

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 1873-3360

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1016/j.psyneuen.2018.08.037


  • eng

Conference Location

  • England