Sucking is a vital behaviour that must be initiated very soon after birth. Sucking is impaired in premature babies and in many neurodevelopmental disorders.
The MAGEL2 gene is involved in the feeding alterations observed in Prader-Willi and Schaaf-Yang syndromes (autistic syndromes). We have shown that Magel2-deficient mice display an early feeding disorder similar to that of patients. Importantly, administration of oxytocin (a brain neuromodulator) to Magel2-deficient mice at a critical period of post-natal development restored normal sucking activity. In addition, we showed that administration of an oxytocin antagonist to wild-type mice just after birth inhibited suck initiation and led to death. Today, we are deciphering the key role of the oxytocinergic system in the central and peripheral nervous system during early postnatal development in the formation of feeding behaviour, under physiological and pathophysiological conditions, using mouse models. We carry out in vivo and ex vivo studies using a wide range of techniques enabling behavioural, physiological and cellular investigations.