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Oxytocin as a regulatory neuropeptide in the trigeminovascular system: Localization, expression and function of oxytocin and oxytocin receptors

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BACKGROUND: Recent clinical findings suggest that oxytocin could be a novel treatment for migraine. However, little is known about the role of this neuropeptide/hormone and its receptor in the trigeminovascular pathway. Here we determine expression, localization, and function of oxytocin and oxytocin receptors in rat trigeminal ganglia and targets of peripheral (dura mater and cranial arteries) and central (trigeminal nucleus caudalis) afferents.

METHODS: The methods include immunohistochemistry, messenger RNA measurements, quantitative PCR, release of calcitonin gene-related peptide and myography of arterial segments.

RESULTS: Oxytocin receptor mRNA was expressed in rat trigeminal ganglia and the receptor protein was localized in numerous small to medium-sized neurons and thick axons characteristic of A∂ sensory fibers. Double immunohistochemistry revealed only a small number of neurons expressing both oxytocin receptors and calcitonin gene-related peptide. In contrast, double immunostaining showed expression of the calcitonin gene-related peptide receptor component receptor activity-modifying protein 1 and oxytocin receptors in 23% of the small cells and in 47% of the medium-sized cells. Oxytocin immunofluorescence was observed only in trigeminal ganglia satellite glial cells. Oxytocin mRNA was below detection limit in the trigeminal ganglia. The trigeminal nucleus caudalis expressed mRNA for both oxytocin and its receptor. K+-evoked calcitonin gene-related peptide release from either isolated trigeminal ganglia or dura mater and it was not significantly affected by oxytocin (10 µM). Oxytocin directly constricted cranial arteries ex vivo (pEC50 ∼ 7); however, these effects were inhibited by the vasopressin V1A antagonist SR49059.

CONCLUSION: Oxytocin receptors are extensively expressed throughout the rat trigeminovascular system and in particular in trigeminal ganglia A∂ neurons and fibers, but no functional oxytocin receptors were demonstrated in the dura and cranial arteries. Thus, circulating oxytocin may act on oxytocin receptors in the trigeminal ganglia to affect nociception transmission. These effects may help explain hormonal influences in migraine and offer a novel way for treatment.

Original languageEnglish
JournalCephalalgia : an international journal of headache
Issue number12
Pages (from-to)1283-1295
Number of pages13
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2020

    Research areas

  • A∂ fibers, CGRP, cranial arteries, migraine, oxytocin, Trigeminal ganglion

ID: 60209973