Oxytocin, and the closely related neuropeptide, vasopressin, are both known to modulate social behaviours. The pro-social effects of oxytocin are well-documented and have generated much interest into its suitability as a therapeutic for disorders characterised by social dysfunction. This study investigated the social phenotype of mice with a targeted deletion of the gene for insulin-regulated aminopeptidase, an enzyme involved in the degradation of oxytocin and vasopressin. In the 3-chamber sociability test, a genotype effect was observed and subsequent post hoc analysis revealed that male, but not female, insulin-regulated aminopeptidase knockout mice made significantly more approaches to the enclosure holding a stranger mouse than did wildtype mice (p = 0.0039). Male insulin-regulated aminopeptidase knockout mice also displayed decreased rearing (t = 2.309, df = 24, p = 0.0299) and locomotor activity (t = 2.134, df = 24, p = 0.043) in the open field test, suggestive of a reduced stress response to a novel environment. Our findings provide support for the role of insulin-regulated aminopeptidase in influencing social behaviour, possibly via modulation of oxytocin and vasopressin levels. The increase in social interaction observed in the male, but not female, insulin-regulated aminopeptidase knockout mice is in agreement with reports of sex differences in effects of oxytocin and vasopressin on social behaviours and should be explored further.
- Insulin-regulated aminopeptidase
- Social behaviour