Role of Connexin 36 in Autoregulation of Oxytocin Neuronal Activity in Rat Supraoptic Nucleus

Academic Article


  • In the supraoptic nucleus (SON), the incidence of dye coupling among oxytocin (OT) neurons increases significantly in nursing mothers. However, the type(s) of connexin (Cx) involved is(are) unknown. In this study, we specifically investigated whether Cx36 plays a functional role in the coupling between OT neurons in the SON of lactating rats. In this brain region, Cx36 was mainly coimmunostained with vasopressin neurons in virgin female rats, whereas in lactating rats, Cx36 was primarily colocalized with OT neurons. In brain slices from lactating rats, application of quinine (0.1 mM), a selective blocker of Cx36, significantly reduced dye coupling among OT neurons as well as the discharge/firing frequency of spikes/action potentials and their amplitude, and transiently depolarized the membrane potential of OT neurons in whole-cell patch-clamp recordings. However, quinine significantly reduced the amplitude, but not frequency, of inhibitory postsynaptic currents in OT neurons; the duration of excitatory postsynaptic currents was reduced but not their frequency and amplitude. Furthermore, the excitatory effect of OT (1 pM) on OT neurons was significantly weakened and delayed by quinine, and burst firing was absent in the presence of this inhibitor. Lastly, Western blotting analysis revealed that the presence of combined, but not alone, quinine and OT significantly reduced the amount of Cx36 in the SON. Thus, Cx36-mediated junctional communication plays a crucial role in autoregulatory control of OT neuronal activity, likely by acting at the postsynaptic sites. The level of Cx36 is modulated by its own activity and the presence of OT.
  • Published In

  • ASN Neuro  Journal
  • Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Author List

  • Wang P; Wang SC; Li D; Li T; Yang HP; Wang L; Wang YF; Parpura V
  • Volume

  • 11