Oxytocin in corticosterone-induced chronic stress model: Focus on adrenal gland function

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Chronic stress conditions can lead to considerable and extensible changes in physiological and psychological performances, and in emergence of risk for various somatic diseases. On the other hand, the neuropeptide oxytocin is reported to increase the resistance of the organism to stress and modulate activity of autonomic nervous system. Chronic corticosterone administration is used as a rat model for a state observed in terms of chronic stress exposure, when negative feedback mechanism of hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal axis activity is disrupted. In our study, we aimed to investigate whether chronic administration of oxytocin (10 IU/400 μL/day for 14 days, s.c.) influenced adrenal gland morphology and activity in adult male Wistar rats during long-term corticosterone administration via drinking water (100 mg/L for 21 days). We examined the influence of treatments on the levels of adrenal gland hormones, corticosterone, adrenaline and noradrenaline, as well as their response to an acute stress challenge evoked by 15-min forced swimming. In addition, the expression of two main monoamine transporters, the noradrenaline transporter (NAT) and vesicular monoamine transporter 2 (VMAT2) in adrenal medulla was measured in the rats exposed to acute stress. Our results showed that oxytocin treatment prevented corticosterone-induced decrease in body weight gain, attenuated adrenal gland atrophy by increasing glandular weight, and the area of the zona fasciculate and reticularis. Chronic corticosterone intake blunted the response of all measured hormones to acute stress, whereas concomitant oxytocin treatment reversed adrenaline and noradrenaline response to acute stress. Furthermore, in adrenal medulla, oxytocin produced significant vasodilatation and stimulated expression of both catecholamine transporters detected both on mRNA and protein level. Our data suggest that oxytocin, by reducing atrophy of adrenal gland, and by increasing catecholamine storage capacity, may be beneficial in conditions accompanied with high glucocorticoid levels, such as chronic stress exposure.




Stanić, D., Plećaš-Solarović, B., Mirković, D., Jovanović, P., Dronjak, S., Marković, B., … Pešić, V. (2017). Oxytocin in corticosterone-induced chronic stress model: Focus on adrenal gland function. Psychoneuroendocrinology, 80, 137–146. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.psyneuen.2017.03.011

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