Articles > Oxytocin/vasopressin research sees new clinical applications, key role in social behavior

Oxytocin/vasopressin research sees new clinical applications, key role in social behavior

Research into the neurohypophyseal hormones best known for birth-related and renal functions point to potential clinical applications in heart failure, septic shock, premature delivery, and key roles in social behavior like parenting and romance

Bethesda, MD – (June 14, 2005) The American Physiological Society (APS) is sponsoring a research conference on the "Neurohypophyseal Hormones: From Genomics and Physiology to Disease," and the latest developments toward clinical applications, July 16-20 in Steamboat Springs, Colorado.

"This meeting is incredibly diverse, reflecting the fact that the more we learn about the two neurohypophyspeal hormones the more we understand what wide-ranging effects they exert on a broad range of organs, including the brain itself," the conference organizer, Celia Sladek, said. "Their effects go from water homeostasis and cardiovascular function to parenting and monogamous behavior, even eating and perhaps autism," she added. "The neurohypophyseal system itself is a model for studying neuronal mechanisms, gene regulation/mutation and glial plasticity," noted Sladek, a professor in the Department of Physiology and Biophysics at the University of Colorado Health Science Center.

Nobel laureate Agre heads three keynoters

Sladek said the three major speakers capture the diversity of presentations:

Peter Agre of Johns Hopkins: Agre’s discovery of aquaporins, the cell membranes’ water channels, led to his Nobel Prize. Agre will discuss aquaporins’ relationship to pathogenesis.

Mitsuhiro Kawata, Kyoto University of Medicine: the effects of steroid hormones in the brain, including hormone replacement therapy.

Larry Young, Emory: vasopressin (VP) and oxytocin (OT) receptor roles in such social/emotional behavior as parenting, promiscuity and romance and in related disorders such as autism.

10 symposia from genomics to NH receptor analogs in clinical setting

The four-day conference includes 10 symposia and four poster sessions featuring presentations by more than 100 researchers. The symposia are:

Renal actions of NH hormones: molecular/physiological (#2, 8:30 a.m. Sunday)


Pressure/volume regulation of VP/OT release (#3, 11 a.m. Sunday)


Central control of lactation (#5, 3 p.m. Sunday)


Osmotic regulation of VP/OT release (#7, 8:30 a.m. Monday)


Renal actions of NH hormones: pathophysiology (#8, 11 a.m. Monday)


Coexpresssed factors in VP and OT neurons (#9, 8:30 a.m. Tuesday)


Peripheral actions of OT and VP (#10, 11 a.m. Tuesday)


Central release and actions of NH hormones (#12, 3 p.m. Tuesday)


NH hormone receptors (#14, 8:30 a.m. Wednesday)


Clinical utility of NH receptor analogs (#15, 11 a.m. Wednesday)

Details on three symposia from lactation to eating behavior to clinical research

#5 Lactation. Speakers will discuss rapid remodeling and reversibility of the OT system where OT itself is an important factor; OT receptor stimulation during gestation is necessary for development during lactation; effect of OT on anxiety and maternal aggression during lactation.

#12 NH central release/actions. Presenters will offer results covering mechanisms underlying the independent release of dendritic and NH OT and VP; the role of melanocortin and OT in facilitated sexual responses, and OT’s key role in control of autonomic and associated adaptive behavior in eating.

#15 Clinical utility. Pharmaceutical companies will present findings on the development of nonpeptide OT receptor antagonists for treating preterm labor, and psychiatric drug development targeting the central VP and OT systems.

Presenters from Japan, U.K., France, Canada, University of Edinburgh

Reflecting the widespread interest in NH hormone research, the leading geographic source of presentations from outside the U.S. include: Japan (20+), U.K. (led by a dozen from University of Edinburgh alone), France (15+) and Canada (10+).


The American Physiological Society thanks the following sponsors for their generous support of the conference: Astellas Pharmaceuticals Inc., GlaxoSmithKline Pharmaceuticals, NIH/NIDDK, Wyeth Research and Olympus America, Inc.

Three APS Journals call for papers

In conjunction with the conference, three American Journal of Physiology (AJP) editions – AJP-Regulatory, Integrative and Comparative Physiology, AJP-Endocrinology and metabolism, and AJP-Renal Physiology – have called for related papers for publication with a common deadline of October 1, 2005.

Media registration and information

Information about the conference, CME meeting and Journal calls for papers are available at the APS website,

Media wishing to attend part or all of the conference in person, or to arrange telephone interviews, should call or email APS communications officer: Mayer Resnick at 301.634.7209,

The full program, including presenters and topics of discussion, and abstract information, is also available.


American Physiological Society. June 2005. 

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