In the socially monogamous prairie vole (Microtus ochrogaster), mating induces enduring pair-bonds that are initiated by partner preference formation and regulated by a variety of neurotransmitters, including oxytocin, vasopressin and dopamine. We examined potential epigenetic mechanisms mediating pair-bond regulation and found that the histone deacetylase inhibitors sodium butyrate and trichostatin A (TSA) facilitated partner preference formation in female prairie voles in the absence of mating. This was associated with a specific upregulation of oxytocin receptor (OTR, oxtr) and vasopressin V1a receptor (V1aR, avpr1a) in the nucleus accumbens (NAcc), through an increase in histone acetylation at their respective promoters. Furthermore, TSA-facilitated partner preference was prevented by OTR or V1aR blockade in the NAcc. Notably, mating-induced partner preference triggered the same epigenetic regulation of oxtr and avpr1a gene promoters as TSA. These observations indicate that TSA and mating facilitate partner preference through epigenetic events, providing, to the best of our knowledge, the first direct evidence for epigenetic regulation of pair-bonding.
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We also thank M. Manning for the generous gift of the OTR antagonist OTA(T) (University of Toledo). This work was supported by grants from the National Institute of Mental Health (MHR21-083128 to M.K. and Z.W., and MHR01-058616 to Z.W.).
The authors declare no competing financial interests.
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Wang, H., Duclot, F., Liu, Y. et al. Histone deacetylase inhibitors facilitate partner preference formation in female prairie voles. Nat Neurosci 16, 919–924 (2013). https://doi.org/10.1038/nn.3420
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