Sexually dimorphic role of oxytocin in medaka mate choice

Saori Yokoi, Kiyoshi Naruse, Yasuhiro Kamei, Satoshi Ansai, Masato Kinoshita, Mari Mito, Shintaro Iwasaki, Shuntaro Inoue, Teruhiro Okuyama, Shinichi Nakagawa, Larry J. Young, Hideaki Takeuchi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

33 Citations (Scopus)


Oxytocin is a central neuromodulator required for facilitating mate preferences for familiar individuals in a monogamous rodent (prairie vole), irrespective of sex. While the role of oxytocin in mate choice is only understood in a few monogamous species, its function in nonmonogamous species, comprising the vast majority of vertebrate species, remains unclear. To address this issue, we evaluated the involvement of an oxytocin homolog (isotocin, referred herein as oxt) in mate choice in medaka fish (Oryzias latipes). Female medaka prefer to choose familiar mates, whereas male medaka court indiscriminately, irrespective of familiarity. We generated mutants of the oxt ligand (oxt) and receptor genes (oxtr1 and oxtr2) and revealed that the oxt-oxtr1 signaling pathway was essential for eliciting female mate preference for familiar males. This pathway was also required for unrestricted and indiscriminate mating strategy in males. That is, either oxt or oxtr1 mutation in males decreased the number of courtship displays toward novel females, but not toward familiar females. Further, males with these mutations exhibited enhanced mate-guarding behaviors toward familiar females, but not toward novel females. In addition, RNA-sequencing (seq) analysis revealed that the transcription of genes involved in gamma-amino butyric acid metabolism as well as those encoding ion-transport ATPase are up-regulated in both oxt and oxtr1 mutants only in female medaka, potentially explaining the sex difference of the mutant phenotype. Our findings provide genetic evidence that oxt-oxtr1 signaling plays a role in the mate choice for familiar individuals in a sex-specific manner in medaka fish.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4802-4808
Number of pages7
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - Mar 3 2020


  • Genome editing
  • Mate guarding
  • Sexual preference
  • Social recognition

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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