Oxytocin alters cell fate selection of rat neural progenitor cells in vitro

Arvind Palanisamy, Ramaswamy Kannappan, Zhiqiang Xu, Audrey Martino, Matthew B. Friese, Justin D. Boyd, Gregory Crosby, Deborah J. Culley

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21 Scopus citations


Synthetic oxytocin (sOT) is widely used during labor, yet little is known about its effects on fetal brain development despite evidence that it reaches the fetal circulation. Here, we tested the hypothesis that sOT would affect early neurodevelopment by investigating its effects on neural progenitor cells (NPC) from embryonic day 14 rat pups. NPCs expressed the oxytocin receptor (OXTR), which was downregulated by 45% upon prolonged treatment with sOT. Next, we examined the effects of sOT on NPC death, apoptosis, proliferation, and differentiation using antibodies to NeuN (neurons), Olig2 (oligodendrocytes), and GFAP (astrocytes). Treated NPCs were analysed with unbiased high-throughput immunocytochemistry. Neither 6 nor 24 h exposure to 100 pM or 100 nM sOT had an effect on viability as assessed by PI or CC-3 immunocytochemistry. Similarly, sOT had negligible effect on NPC proliferation, except that the overall rate of NPC proliferation was higher in the 24 h compared to the 6 h group regardless of sOT exposure. The most significant finding was that sOT exposure caused NPCs to select a predominantly neuronal lineage, along with a concomitant decrease in glial cells. Collectively, our data suggest that perinatal exposure to sOT can have neurodevelopmental consequences for the fetus, and support the need for in vivo anatomical and behavioral studies in offspring exposed to sOT in utero.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0191160
JournalPloS one
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2018


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