Article | Published:

Galanin neurons in the medial preoptic area govern parental behaviour

Nature volume 509, pages 325330 (15 May 2014) | Download Citation

Abstract

Mice display robust, stereotyped behaviours towards pups: virgin males typically attack pups, whereas virgin females and sexually experienced males and females display parental care. Here we show that virgin males genetically impaired in vomeronasal sensing do not attack pups and are parental. Furthermore, we uncover a subset of galanin-expressing neurons in the medial preoptic area (MPOA) that are specifically activated during male and female parenting, and a different subpopulation that is activated during mating. Genetic ablation of MPOA galanin neurons results in marked impairment of parental responses in males and females and affects male mating. Optogenetic activation of these neurons in virgin males suppresses inter-male and pup-directed aggression and induces pup grooming. Thus, MPOA galanin neurons emerge as an essential regulatory node of male and female parenting behaviour and other social responses. These results provide an entry point to a circuit-level dissection of parental behaviour and its modulation by social experience.

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Acknowledgements

We thank K. Deisseroth for the Cre-dependent AAV-ChR2:EYFP construct; E. Boyden for the Cre-dependent AAV-GFP construct; N. Shah for the AAV-Flex-taCasp3-TEVp virus; S. Sullivan for behaviour annotation and scoring; R. Hellmiss for figure artwork; E. Soucy and J. Greenwood for technical assistance. We also thank members of the Dulac and Uchida laboratories and V. Murthy, A. Schier and M. Meister for advice on experiments and statistical analysis and comments on the manuscript, and the anonymous reviewers for their helpful suggestions and comments. This work was supported by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and the National Institute of Health (NIDCD).

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Affiliations

  1. Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology, Center for Brain Science, Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts 02138, USA

    • Zheng Wu
    • , Anita E. Autry
    • , Joseph F. Bergan
    •  & Catherine G. Dulac
  2. Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology, Center for Brain Science, Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts 02138, USA

    • Mitsuko Watabe-Uchida

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Contributions

Z.W. and C.G.D. conceived and designed the study. Z.W. and A.E.A. performed the experiments and collected the data. J.F.B. and Z.W. developed the setup for ChR2-mediated cell activation. M.W.-U. constructed the AAV-DTA virus. Z.W. and C.G.D. interpreted the results and wrote the paper with comments from A.E.A., J.F.B. and M.W.-U.

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Catherine G. Dulac.

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DOI

https://doi.org/10.1038/nature13307

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