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Neuromedin U induces self-grooming in socially-stimulated mice.

Journal article
Authors Jesper Vestlund
Aimilia Lydia Kalafateli
Erik Studer
Lars Westberg
Elisabeth Jerlhag
Published in Neuropharmacology
Volume 162
Pages 107818
ISSN 1873-7064
Publication year 2020
Published at Institute of Neuroscience and Physiology, Department of Pharmacology
Pages 107818
Language en
Keywords Dopamine, NMUR2, Nucleus accumbens shell, Oxytocin, Social behavior
Subject categories Neuroscience


Emerging evidence suggest that appetite-regulating peptides modulate social behaviors. We here investigate whether the anorexigenic peptide neuromedin U (NMU) modulates sexual behavior in male mice. However, instead of modulating sexual behaviors, NMU administered into the third ventricle increased self-grooming behavior. In addition, NMU-treatment increased self-grooming behavior when exposed to other mice or olfactory social-cues, but not when exposed to non-social environments. As the neuropeptide oxytocin is released during social investigation and exogenous oxytocin induces self-grooming, its role in NMU-induced self-grooming behavior was investigated. In line with our hypothesis, the oxytocin receptor antagonist inhibited NMU-induced self-grooming behavior in mice exposed to olfactory social-cues. Moreover, dopamine in the mesocorticolimbic system is known to be a key regulator of self-grooming behavior. In line with this, we proved that infusion of NMU into nucleus accumbens increased self-grooming behavior in mice confronted with an olfactory social-cue and that this behavior was inhibited by antagonism of dopamine D2, but not D1/D5, receptors. Moreover repeated NMU treatment enhanced ex vivo dopamine levels and decreased the expression of dopamine D2 receptors in nucleus accumbens in socially housed mice. On the other hand, the olfactory stimuli-dependent NMU-induced self-grooming was not affected by a corticotrophin-releasing hormone antagonist, and NMU-treatment did not influence repetitive behaviors in the marble burying test. In conclusion, our results suggest that NMU treatment and, social cues - potentially triggering oxytocin release - together induce excessive grooming behavior in male mice. The mesolimbic dopamine system, including accumbal dopamine D2 receptors, was identified as a crucial downstream mechanism.

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