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Diversity of central oxytocinergic projections

Jirikowski, Gustav F.
Cell and tissue research 2019 v.375 no.1 pp. 41-48
anterior pituitary, blood flow, brain stem, cerebrospinal fluid, females, functional status, hypothalamus, males, mammals, neurons, oxytocin, reproduction, steroid hormones, stress response
Localization and distribution of hypothalamic neurons expressing the nonapeptide oxytocin has been extensively studied. Their projections to the neurohypophyseal system release oxytocin into the systemic circulation thus controlling endocrine events associated with reproduction in males and females. Oxytocinergic neurons seem to be confined to the ventral hypothalamus in all mammals. Groups of such cells located outside the supraoptic and the paraventricular nuclei are summarized as “accessory neurons.” Although evolutionary probably associated with the classical magocellular nuclei, accessory oxytocin neurons seem to consist of rather heterogenous groups: Periventricular oxytocin neurons may gain contact to the third ventricle to secrete the peptide into the cerebrospinal fluid. Perivascular neurons may be involved in control of cerebral blood flow. They may also gain access to the portal circulation of the anterior pituitary lobe. Central projections of oxytocinergic neurons extend to portions of the limbic system, to the mesencephalon and to the brain stem. Such projections have been associated with control of behaviors, central stress response as well as motor and vegetative functions. Activity of the different oxytocinergic systems seems to be malleable to functional status, strongly influenced by systemic levels of steroid hormones.