Oxytocin decreases sweet taste sensitivity in mice

Michael S. Sinclair, Isabel Perea-Martinez, Marianne Abouyared, Steven J. St. John, Nirupa Chaudhari

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


Oxytocin (OXT) suppresses food intake and lack of OXT leads to overconsumption of sucrose. Taste bud cells were recently discovered to express OXT-receptor. In the present study we tested whether administering OXT to wild-type mice affects their licking behavior for tastants in a paradigm designed to be sensitive to taste perception. We injected C57BL/6J mice intraperitoneally (i.p.) with 10mg/kg OXT and assayed their brief-access lick responses, motivated by water deprivation, to NaCl (300mM), citric acid (20mM), quinine (0.3mM), saccharin (10mM), and a mix of MSG and IMP (100mM and 0.5mM respectively). OXT had no effect on licking for NaCl, citric acid, or quinine. A possible effect of OXT on saccharin and MSG+IMP was difficult to interpret due to unexpectedly low lick rates to water (the vehicle for all taste solutions), likely caused by the use of a high OXT dose that suppressed licking and other behaviors. A subsequent experiment focused on another preferred tastant, sucrose, and employed a much lower OXT dose (0.1mg/kg). This modification, based on our measurements of plasma OXT following i.p. injection, permitted us to elevate plasma [OXT] sufficiently to preferentially activate taste bud cells. OXT at this low dose significantly reduced licking responses to 0.3M sucrose, and overall shifted the sucrose concentration - behavioral response curves rightward (mean EC50saline=0.362M vs. EC50OXT=0.466M). Males did not differ from females under any condition in this study. We propose that circulating oxytocin is another factor that modulates taste-based behavior.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)103-110
Number of pages8
JournalPhysiology AND Behavior
StatePublished - Mar 5 2015


  • Brief-access test
  • Gustation
  • Licking
  • Oxytocin
  • Sweet

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Behavioral Neuroscience
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Philosophy


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