Oxytocin Mediates Social Neuroprotection After Cerebral Ischemia
Background and Purpose—The reduced incidence, morbidity, and mortality of stroke among humans with strong social support have been well-documented; however, the mechanisms underlying these socially mediated phenomena remain unknown, but may involve oxytocin (OT), a hormone that modulates some aspects of social behavior in humans and other animals.
Methods—In the present study, adult male mice were socially isolated (housed individually) or socially paired (housed with an ovariectomized female); social pairing increased hypothalamic OT gene expression. To determine whether a causal relationship exists between increased OT and improved stroke outcome, mice were treated with exogenous OT or OT receptor antagonist beginning 1 week before induction of experimental stroke via middle cerebral artery occlusion.
Results—Relative to social isolation, social housing attenuated infarct size, neuroinflammation, and oxidative stress following experimental stroke; the neuroprotective effect of social housing was eliminated by receptor antagonist treatment. In contrast, administration of OT to socially isolated mice reproduced the neuroprotection conferred by social housing. We further report evidence for a direct suppressive action of OT on cultured microglia, which is a key instigator in the development of neuroinflammation after cerebral ischemia.
Conclusions—These findings support the hypothesis that OT mediates the neuroprotective effect of social interaction on stroke outcome.
- Received June 13, 2011.
- Accepted July 6, 2011.
- © 2011 American Heart Association, Inc.