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J Comp Neurol. 2003 Oct 27;465(4):551-9.

Sex-specific patterns of galanin, cholecystokinin, and substance P expression in neurons of the principal bed nucleus of the stria terminalis are differentially reflected within three efferent preoptic pathways in the juvenile rat.

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  • 1Division of Neuroscience, Oregon National Primate Research Center, Oregon Health and Science University, Beaverton, Oregon 97006, USA.


Neurons in the principal bed nucleus of the stria terminalis (BSTp) integrate hormonal and sensory information associated with reproduction and transmit this information to hypothalamic nuclei that regulate neuroendocrine and behavioral functions. The neuropeptides galanin (GAL), cholecystokinin (CCK), and substance P (SP) are highly expressed in BSTp neurons and are differentially regulated by sex steroids. The current experiments investigated whether developmental or peripubertal hormone-mediated changes in GAL, CCK, and SP expression are reflected within efferent pathways to the preoptic structures that regulate gonadotropin secretion and sexual behavior. Anterograde labeling of projections from the BSTp of male and female juvenile rats combined with immunohistochemical labeling of GAL-, CCK-, and SP-containing fibers in the anteroventral periventricular preoptic nucleus (AVPV) and the central and medial divisions of the medial preoptic nucleus (MPNc, MPNm, respectively) revealed unique sex differences in each region. In the AVPV, Phaseolus vulgaris leucoagglutinin-labeled fibers were seen at a greater density in males than in females, and higher percentages of these fibers contained GAL in males than in females. In contrast, fibers projecting from the BSTp to the MPNc were more likely to contain SP in females than in males. Treatment of gonadectomized, peripubertal males and females with exogenous testosterone and estradiol did not alter the densities of GAL-, CCK-, or SP-containing fibers in any of the three brain areas examined. Collectively, these results suggest that patterns of neuropeptide expression in BSTp projections are established during development, resulting in a distinct, stable, and sex-specific chemoarchitectural profile for each projection pathway.

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