Oxytocin is a nonapeptide hormone that participates in the regulation of parturition and lactation. It has also been implicated in various behaviors, such as mating and maternal, and memory. To investigate whether or not oxytocin (OT) is essential for any of these functions, we eliminated, by homologous recombination, most of the first intron and the last two exons of the OT gene in mice. Those exons encode the neurophysin portion of the oxytocin preprohormone which is hypothesized to help in the packaging and transport of OT. The homozygous mutant mice have no detectable neurophysin or processed oxytocin in the paraventricular nucleus, supraoptic nucleus or posterior pituitary. Interestingly, homozygous mutant males and females are fertile and the homozygous mutant females are able to deliver their litters. However, the pups do not successfully suckle and die within 24 h without milk in their stomachs. OT injection into the dams restores the milk injection in response to suckling. These results indicate an absolute requirement for oxytocin for successful milk injection, but not for mating, parturition and milk production, in mice.
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