Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

New role for 'hormone of love' oxytocin in brain: Helps direct development of brain-body interface

Date:
November 8, 2011
Source:
Weizmann Institute of Science
Summary:
Much of the body's chemistry is controlled by the brain -- from blood pressure to appetite to food metabolism. New research reveals the exact structure of one crucial brain area in which biochemical commands are passed from the brain cells to the bloodstream and from there to the body. In the process, scientists have discovered a surprising new role for the "hormone of love," showing that it helps direct the development of this brain structure.

Three-dimensional structure of the neurohypophysis in a zebrafish embryo (the nerve fibers and blood vessels are genetically tagged with fluorescent proteins). This brain area provides an interface between nerve cells (green), arteries (purple) and veins (red).
Credit: Image courtesy of Weizmann Institute of Science

Much of the body's chemistry is controlled by the brain -- from blood pressure to appetite to food metabolism. In a study published recently in Developmental Cell, a team of scientists led by Dr. Gil Levkowitz of the Weizmann Institute has revealed the exact structure of one crucial brain area in which biochemical commands are passed from the brain cells to the bloodstream and from there to the body. In the process, they discovered a surprising new role for the "hormone of love," showing that it helps to direct the development of this brain structure.

The area in question, the neurohypophysis, is an interface between nerve fibers and blood vessels located at the base of the brain. Here, some of the major brain-body interactions take place: Hormones released from nerves into the blood vessels regulate a series of vital body processes, including the balance of fluids and uterine contractions in childbirth.

Although the neurohypophysis has been studied for more than a century, the scientists in the Weizmann Institute-led study developed new genetic tools that enabled them to examine the exact three-dimensional arrangement of this brain structure and clarify the cellular and molecular processes leading to its formation. Since the human neurohypophysis is exceedingly complex, the scientists performed the research on live embryos of zebrafish. These fully transparent embryos offer a unique model for studying the vertebrate brain, lending themselves to genetic manipulation with relative ease and enabling researchers to observe the actual formation of a neurohypophysis under a microscope.

The study revealed a surprising new function for the hormonal messenger oxytocin, dubbed the "hormone of love" because, in addition to controlling appetite and such female reproductive behaviors as breastfeeding, it is also involved in mother-child and mate bonding. The scientists showed that oxytocin, one of the two major hormones secreted in the adult neurohypophysis, is involved in the development of this brain area already in the embryo. At this stage, the oxytocin governs the formation of new blood vessels. "The messenger helps to build the road for transmitting its own future messages," says Levkowitz . Developmental Cell highlighted the study's findings in a preview headlined, "The Hormone of Love Attracts a Partner for Life."

These findings provide an important advance in basic research because they shed light on fundamental brain processes, but in the future they might also be relevant to the treatment of disease. Since the neurohypophysis is one of only a few portions of the brain able to regenerate after injury, an understanding of how it is formed may one day help achieve such regeneration in other parts of the central nervous system.

The research was conducted in Levkowitz's lab in the Molecular Cell Biology Department by Ph.D. student Amos Gutnick together with Dr. Janna Blechman. The Weizmann scientists worked in collaboration with Dr. Jan Kaslin of Monash University, Australia; Drs. Lukas Herwig, Heinz-Georg Belting and Markus Affolter of the University of Basel, Switzerland; and Dr. Joshua L. Bonkowsky of the University of Utah, United States.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Weizmann Institute of Science. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Amos Gutnick, Janna Blechman, Jan Kaslin, Lukas Herwig, Heinz-Georg Belting, Markus Affolter, JoshuaL. Bonkowsky, Gil Levkowitz. The Hypothalamic Neuropeptide Oxytocin Is Required for Formation of the Neurovascular Interface of the Pituitary. Developmental Cell, 2011; 21 (4): 642 DOI: 10.1016/j.devcel.2011.09.004

Cite This Page:

Weizmann Institute of Science. "New role for 'hormone of love' oxytocin in brain: Helps direct development of brain-body interface." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 8 November 2011. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/11/111102093035.htm>.
Weizmann Institute of Science. (2011, November 8). New role for 'hormone of love' oxytocin in brain: Helps direct development of brain-body interface. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 19, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/11/111102093035.htm
Weizmann Institute of Science. "New role for 'hormone of love' oxytocin in brain: Helps direct development of brain-body interface." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/11/111102093035.htm (accessed April 19, 2014).

Share This



More Health & Medicine News

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

'Holy Grail' Of Weight Loss? New Find Could Be It

'Holy Grail' Of Weight Loss? New Find Could Be It

Newsy (Apr. 18, 2014) In a potential breakthrough for future obesity treatments, scientists have used MRI scans to pinpoint brown fat in a living adult for the first time. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Little Progress Made In Fighting Food Poisoning, CDC Says

Little Progress Made In Fighting Food Poisoning, CDC Says

Newsy (Apr. 18, 2014) A new report shows rates of two foodborne infections increased in the U.S. in recent years, while salmonella actually dropped 9 percent. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Scientists Create Stem Cells From Adult Skin Cells

Scientists Create Stem Cells From Adult Skin Cells

Newsy (Apr. 17, 2014) The breakthrough could mean a cure for some serious diseases and even the possibility of human cloning, but it's all still a way off. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Obama: 8 Million Healthcare Signups

Obama: 8 Million Healthcare Signups

AP (Apr. 17, 2014) President Barack Obama gave a briefing Thursday announcing 8 million people have signed up under the Affordable Care Act. He blasted continued Republican efforts to repeal the law. (April 17) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins