An interesting article on designing an oxytocin analogue with improved properties:
Oxytocin (OT) is a nonapeptide hormone that is secreted into the brain and blood circulation. OT has not only classical neurohormonal roles in uterine contraction and milk ejection during the reproductive phase in females, but has also been shown to have new pivotal neuromodulatory roles in social recognition and interaction in both genders. A single administration of OT through nasal spray increases mutual recognition and trust in healthy subjects and psychiatric patients, suggesting that OT is a potential therapeutic drug for autism spectrum disorders, schizophrenia, and some other psychiatric disorders. Although the mechanism is not well understood, it is likely that OT can be transported into the brain where it activates OT receptors to exert its function in the brain. However, the amount transported into the brain may be low. To ensure equivalent effects, an OT analog with long-lasting and effective blood-brain barrier penetration properties would be beneficial for use as a therapeutic drug. Here, we designed and synthesized a new oxytocin analog, lipo-oxytocin-1 (LOT-1), in which two palmitoyl groups are conjugated at the amino group of the cysteine9 residue and the phenolic hydroxyl group of the tyrosine8 residue of the OT molecule. To determine whether LOT-1 actually has an effect on the central nervous system, we examined its effects in a CD157 knockout model mouse of the non-motor psychiatric symptoms of Parkinson’s disease. Similar to OT, this analog rescued anxiety-like behavior and social avoidance in the open field test with the social target in a central arena 30 min after intraperitoneal injection in CD157 knockout mice. When examined 24 h after injection, the mice treated with LOT-1 displayed more recovery than those given OT. The results suggest that LOT-1 has a functional advantage in recovery of social behavioral impairment, such as those caused by neurodegenerative diseases, autism spectrum disorders, and schizophrenia.
Accumulating evidence demonstrates the important role of oxytocin (OT) in the modulation of social cognition and behavior. This has led many to suggest that the intranasal administration of OT may benefit psychiatric disorders characterized by social dysfunction, such as autism spectrum disorders and schizophrenia. Here, we review nasal anatomy and OT pathways to central and peripheral destinations, along with the impact of OT delivery to these destinations on social behavior and cognition. The primary goal of this review is to describe how these identified pathways may contribute to mechanisms of OT action on social cognition and behavior (that is, modulation of social information processing, anxiolytic effects, increases in approach-behaviors). We propose a two-level model involving three pathways to account for responses observed in both social cognition and behavior after intranasal OT administration and suggest avenues for future research to advance this research field.
The ability to predict the behavior of others based on their mental states is crucial for social functioning. Previous studies have provided evidence for the role of Oxytocin (OXT) in enhancing the ability to mentalize. It has also been demonstrated that the effect of OXT seems to strongly depend on socio-cognitive skills with more pronounced effects in individuals with lower socio-cognitive skills. Although recent studies indicate that mentalizing is related to empathy, no study has yet examined whether the effects of OXT on mentalizing depend on the ability to empathize. 71 male participants participated in a double-blind, between-subjects, placebo-controlled experiment. The Reading the Mind in the Eye Test (RMET) was used to investigate mentalizing abilities. We analyzed the effect of OXT on easy and difficult items of the RMET depending on differential empathy scores of the participants as assessed with the Empathy Quotient (EQ). Our results showed that OXT improves mentalizing for difficult but not for easy items. We generally observed increased mentalizing accuracy in participants with higher empathy scores. Importantly, however, whereas the performance in participants with higher empathy scores was comparable in both OXT and placebo condition, OXT specifically enhanced mentalizing accuracy in participants with lower empathy scores. Our findings suggest that OXT enhances mentalizing abilities. However, we also demonstrate that not all participants benefited from OXT application. It seems that the effects of OXT strongly depend on baseline social-cognitive skills such as empathy.