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Brain Res. 2000 May 19;865(1):27-34.

Neuronal expression of Fos protein in the hypothalamus of rats with heart failure.

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  • 1Department of Physiology and Biophysics, University of Nebraska Medical Center, 984575 Nebraska Medical Center, Omaha, NE 68198-4575, USA.


We sought to identify the areas that have altered neuronal activity within the hypothalamus of rats with heart failure (HF) by mapping neuronal staining of c-Fos protein (Fos) 6-8 weeks following coronary artery ligation (HF group; n=17) or sham surgery (sham-operated control group, n=15). Fos-like immunoreactivity was observed in the paraventricular nucleus (PVN), supraoptic nucleus (SON), median preoptic nucleus (MnPO), anterior hypothalamus (AH) and posterior hypothalamus (PH) using a standard ABC immunocytochemical protocol. The rats in the HF group displayed infarcts averaging 34+/-2% of the outer circumference and 41+/-1% of the inner circumference of the left ventricular wall. Sham-operated control rats had no observable damage to the myocardium. Rats with chronic heart failure (n=5) but no manipulation (no surgery) had a similar number of Fos-staining cells in PVN SON, MnPO, AH and PH compared to sham-operated rats. Acute surgery for isolation of vagus nerves and anesthesia for 90 min increased the number of Fos positive cells in PVN, SON and MnPO of both sham-operated rats and rats with HF. Furthermore, rats with heart failure (n=5) had significantly higher number of Fos-staining cells in PVN (four times), SON (4.5 times) and MnPO (1.5 times) compared to sham-operated rats after acute surgery for isolation of the vagus. The number of Fos-staining cells remained unaltered in AH and PH in both groups of rats. However, in a third series of experiments vagotomy reduced the number of Fos-staining cells in the PVN, SON or MnPO of rats with HF (n=5) to those observed in sham-operated vagotomized rats. This study shows that: (1) there is augmented neuronal activity as indicated by increased number of Fos staining neurons in the PVN, SON and MnPO due to acute surgical stress in rats with HF, and (2) vagal afferents are responsible for the increased neuronal activity in PVN, SON and MnPO of rats with HF during acute surgical stress. These data support the conclusion that vasopressin producing neurons and autonomic areas within the hypothalamus influenced by vagal afferents are activated during HF and are sensitive to 'acute surgical stress' and may contribute to the elevated levels of vasopressin and sympatho-excitation commonly observed in heart failure.

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