Date of Graduation

5-2019

Level of Access

Open Access Thesis

Department or Program

Neuroscience

First Advisor

Richmond Thompson

Abstract

The peptide vasotocin (VT) and its mammalian homologue, vasopressin (VP), produce effects on social behavior that are highly species- and context-specific. We recently sequenced two genes for V1a-like receptors (VTR) in the goldfish brain, one that encodes for a fully-functioning canonical receptor and one that encodes for a non-functional truncated receptor. The current study is an investigation of whether social context may alter expression of these receptor types and thus, potentially, behavioral responses to VT. We used western blotting and immunohistochemistry with custom anti-VTR antibodies to characterize the distribution of VTR throughout the forebrain and the hindbrain. Western blot results showed bands close to the predicted sizes for truncated and canonical VTR constructs, suggesting that both genes are translated into protein in the brain, but the presence of additional bands suggested potential nonspecific binding. Immunohistochemistry data revealed VTR signal throughout the brain in regions associated with social behavior. We additionally examined whether visual and olfactory context alters behavioral responsiveness to VT, potentially by altering the expression of one or both receptors. Behavioral tests suggested that VT inhibits approach to males, but its effect on response to females in reproductive contexts is still undetermined, likely due to interference from a stress response during testing. Further characterization of VTR throughout the brain will clarify how social context might alter VT signaling through context-dependent modulation of its receptors. Additionally, future work should examine the behavioral consequences of such modulation by further studying whether VT’s effect on social approach behavior depends on context.

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