The neurohypophysial nonapeptides vasopressin (VP) and oxytocin (OT) modulate a broad range of cognitive and social activities. Notably, in amphibians, vasotocin (VT), the ortholog of mammalian VP, plays a crucial role in the control of sexual behaviors. Because several neurosteroids also regulate reproduction-related behaviors, we investigated the possible effect of VT and the OT ortholog mesotocin (MT) in the control of neurosteroid production. Double immunohistochemical labeling of frog brain sections revealed the presence of VT/MT-positive fibers in close proximity of neurons expressing the steroidogenic enzymes 3β-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase/Δ5- Δ4 isomerase (3β-HSD) and cytochrome P450 17α-hydroxylase/c17, 20-lyase (P450C17). High concentrations of VT and MT receptor mRNAs were observed in diencephalic nuclei containing the 3β-HSD and P450C17 neuronal populations. Exposure of frog hypothalamic explants to graded concentrations of VT or MT produced a dose-dependent increase in the formation of progesterone, 17- hydroxypregnenolone, 17-hydroxyprogesterone, and dehydroepiandrosterone. The stimulatory effect of VT and MT on neurosteroid biosynthesis was mimicked by VP and OT, as well as by a selective V1b receptor agonist, whereas V2 and OT receptor agonists had no effect. VT-induced neurosteroid production was completely suppressed by selective V1a receptor antagonists and was not affected by V2 and OT receptor antagonists. Concurrently, the effect of MT on neurosteroidogenesis was markedly attenuated by selective OT and V1a receptor antagonists but not by a V2 antagonist. The present study provides the first evidence for a regulatory effect of VT and MT on neurosteroid biosynthesis. These data suggest that neurosteroids may mediate some of the behavioral actions of VT and MT.
- 3β-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase/Δ-Δ isomerase
- Cytochrome p450 17α-hydroxylase/c17, 20-lyase
- Neurosteroid biosynthesis
ASJC Scopus subject areas