The contributions of oxytocin and vasopressin pathway genes to human behavior

Richard P. Ebstein*, Ariel Knafo, David Mankuta, Soo Hong Chew, Poh San Lai

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

229 Scopus citations


Arginine vasopressin (AVP) and oxytocin (OXT) are social hormones and mediate affiliative behaviors in mammals and as recently demonstrated, also in humans. There is intense interest in how these simple nonapeptides mediate normal and abnormal behavior, especially regarding disorders of the social brain such as autism that are characterized by deficits in social communication and social skills. The current review examines in detail the behavioral genetics of the first level of human AVP-OXT pathway genes including arginine vasopressin 1a receptor (. AVPR1a), oxytocin receptor (. OXTR), . AVP (. AVP-neurophysin II [NPII]) and . OXT (. OXT neurophysin I [NPI]), oxytocinase/vasopressinase (. LNPEP), ADP-ribosyl cyclase (. CD38) and arginine vasopressin 1b receptor (. AVPR1b). Wherever possible we discuss evidence from a variety of research tracks including molecular genetics, imaging genomics, pharmacology and endocrinology that support the conclusions drawn from association studies of social phenotypes and detail how common polymorphisms in AVP-OXT pathway genes contribute to the behavioral hard wiring that enables individual . Homo sapiens to interact successfully with conspecifics. This article is part of a Special Issue entitled Oxytocin, Vasopressin, and Social Behavior.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)359-379
Number of pages21
JournalHormones and Behavior
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2012

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Financial support from the National University of Singapore (Decision Making Under Urbanization: A Neurobiological and Experimental Economics Approach), Ministry of Education at Singapore (Biological Economics and Decision Making), the AXA Research Foundation (Biology of Decision Making under Risk) and the Templeton Foundation (Genes, God and Generosity: The Yin Yang of DNA and Culture), is gratefully acknowledged.


  • ADP-ribosyl cyclase (CD38)
  • Arginine receptor 1b receptor (AVPR1b)
  • Arginine vasopressin 1a receptor (AVPR1a)
  • LNPEP (oxytocinase)
  • Neurophysin
  • Oxytocin
  • Oxytocin receptor (OXTR)
  • Plasma oxytocin
  • Polymorphism
  • Vasopressin


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