Electrophysiological distinctions between oxytocin and vasopressin neurons in the supraoptic nucleus

William E. Armstrong, Javier E. Stern

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

27 Scopus citations


Oxytocin and vasopressin neurons can be differentiated from one another, and from neurons in the immediately adjacent perinuclear zone, by their electrophysiological properties. In both sexes, oxytocin and vasopressin neurons are characterized by a prominent transient outward rectification which is conspicuously lacking in most perinuclear neurons. In addition, perinuclear neurons, some of which project to the supraoptic nucleus, exhibit a transient depolarization which underlies short bursts of spikes. Oxytocin neurons are characterized by: 1) the presence of a sustained outward rectifier above -50 mV, active below spike threshold; 2) a rebound depolarization following deactivation of the sustained rectification which can sustain short spike trains; and 3) a smaller transient outward rectification, probably associated with the potassium current, I(a). Vasopressin neurons show little of the sustained outward rectification and rebound depolarization, but have a stronger transient outward rectification. Although both cell types exhibit depolarizing afterpotentials, in vasopressin neurons these lead to plateau potentials underlying prolonged discharges. In oxytocin neurons, the depolarizing potential usually sustains a short spike discharge, but less often leads to prolonged bursts. These data suggest that the intrinsic properties of oxytocin and vasopressin neurons lead to quantitatively different forms of burst discharges, both of which may facilitate hormone release.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)67-77
Number of pages11
JournalAdvances in experimental medicine and biology
StatePublished - 1998

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)


Dive into the research topics of 'Electrophysiological distinctions between oxytocin and vasopressin neurons in the supraoptic nucleus'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this