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Population variation alters aggression-associated oxytocin and vasopressin expressions in brains of Brandt’s voles in field conditions
Frontiers in Zoology  (IF3.172),  Pub Date : 2021-10-30, DOI: 10.1186/s12983-021-00441-w
Huang, Shuli, Li, Guoliang, Pan, Yongliang, Liu, Jing, Zhao, Jidong, Zhang, Xin, Lu, Wei, Wan, Xinrong, Krebs, Charles J., Wang, Zuoxin, Han, Wenxuan, Zhang, Zhibin

Density-dependent change in aggressive behavior contributes to the population regulation of many small rodents, but the underlying neurological mechanisms have not been examined in field conditions. We hypothesized that crowding stress and aggression-associated oxytocin (OT) and arginine vasopressin (AVP) in specific regions of the brain may be closely related to aggressive behaviors and population changes of small rodents. We analyzed the association of OT and AVP expression, aggressive behavior, and population density of Brandt’s voles in 24 large semi-natural enclosures (0.48 ha each) in Inner Mongolia grassland. We tested the effects of population density on the OT/AVP system and aggressive behavior by experimentally manipulating populations of Brandt’s voles in the grassland enclosures. High density was positively and significantly associated with more aggressive behavior, and increased expression of mRNA and protein of AVP and its receptor, but decreased expression of mRNA and protein of OT and its receptor in specific brain regions of the voles. Our study suggests that changes in OT/AVP expression are likely a result of the increased psychosocial stress that these voles experience during overcrowding, and thus the OT/AVP system can be used as indicators of density-dependent stressors in Brandt’s voles.