Publication Date



Open access

Embargo Period


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Psychology (Arts and Sciences)

Date of Defense


First Committee Member

Philip McCabe

Second Committee Member

Armando Mendez

Third Committee Member

Neil Schneiderman


Purpose: The present study investigates the potential anti-inflammatory effects of in vivo oxytocin (OT) infusion on adipose tissue inflammation in the Watanabe Heritable Hyperlipidimic Rabbits (WHHL). Methods: Twenty-eight 3-month-old WHHL were surgically implanted with osmotic minipumps containing OT (n = 14, infusion rate 250 ng/kg/hr) or vehicle (n = 14). Blood samples were taken at baseline, midpoint, and endpoint for lipids and C-reactive protein (CRP). After 16 weeks, animals were sacrificed and samples of adipose tissue (epididiymal, retroperitoneal, mesenteric, pericardial, and subcutanous) were collected and analyzed for pro-inflammatory cytokine (IL-6, TNF-α, and MCP-1) and anti- inflammatory adipokine (adiponectin and IL-10) expression levels by Real Time- Polymerase Chain Reaction. Adipose tissue was also immunohistologically analyzed for macrophage infiltration. Aortas were dissected, formalin-fixed, and stained with oil-red O for en face quantification of lesion area. Student’s t-tests were used to compare group means for all measures. Results: Endpoint OT levels were significantly different (p < .05) between the control ( M = 11.28 pg/ml, SEM = 2.5) and treatment group (M = 132.35 pg/ml, SEM = 8.5). Plasma lipids were not altered by OT infusion. OT-treatment significantly decreased plasma CRP, a marker of systemic inflammation, at midpoint and endpoint compared to controls (p = 0.05). OT-treated animals displayed significantly less atherosclerosis in the thoracic aorta (p < 0.05); a finding similar to our previously published study in a mouse model of atherosclerosis. In some fat depots, there was a trend suggesting adiponectin gene expression increased in the OT-treatment group. There were no significant differences or trends regarding macrophage infiltration in adipose tissue. Conclusions: Oxytocin infusion attenuated thoracic aortic atherosclerosis, plasma CRP, and may affect inflammatory cytokine expression in adipose tissue in the WHHL model.


oxytocin; adipose tissue; inflammation; atherosclerosis