Early adverse experiences often have devastating consequences on adult emotional and social behavior. However, whether paternal deprivation (PD) during the pre-weaning period affects brain and behavioral development remains unexplored in socially mandarin vole (Microtus mandarinus). We found that PD increased anxiety-like behavior and attenuated social preference in adult males and females; decreased prelimbic cortex OT-immunoreactive fibers and paraventricular nucleus OT positive neurons; reduced levels of medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC) OT receptor protein in females and OT receptor and V1a receptor protein in males. Intra-prelimbic cortical OT injections reversed anxiety-like behavior and social preferences affected by PD, whereas injections of OT and OT receptor antagonist blocked this reversal. These findings demonstrate that PD leads to increased anxiety-like behavior and attenuated social preferences with involvement of the mPFC OT system. The prelimbic cortex OT system may be an important target for the treatment of disorders related to early adverse experiences.
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