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Brain Res. 2004 Dec 24;1030(1):28-48.

Distribution of methionine and leucine enkephalin neurons within the social behavior circuitry of the male Syrian hamster brain.

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Kresge Hearing Research Institute, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI 48109, USA.


Enkephalin plays a role in the social behaviors of many species, but no corresponding role for this peptide has been investigated in the male Syrian hamster, a species in which brain nuclei controlling social behaviors have been identified. Previous studies have shown the distribution of dynorphin and beta-endorphin throughout social behavior circuits within the male hamster brain. To date, the only studies of enkephalin in the hamster brain address the distribution of this peptide in the olfactory bulb and hippocampus. The present study provides a complete map of enkephalinergic neurons within the forebrain and midbrain of the male Syrian hamster and addresses the question of whether enkephalin immunoreactive (Enk-ir) cells are found within brain regions relevant to male hamster social behaviors. Following immunocytochemistry for either methionine enkephalin (met-enkephalin) or leucine enkephalin (leu-enkephalin), we observed enkephalin localization consistent with data that have previously been reported in the rat, with notable exceptions including lateral septum, ventromedial nucleus of the hypothalamus and cingulate gyrus. Additionally, met- and leu-enkephalin localization patterns largely overlap. Consistent with the post-translational processing of preproenkephalin, met-enkephalin was more abundant than leu-enkephalin both within individual cells (darker staining), and within given brain nuclei (more met-enkephalin immunoreactive cells). Two exceptions were the posterointermediate bed nucleus of the stria terminalis, containing more neurons heavily labeled for leu-enkephalin, and the main olfactory bulb, where only met-enkephalin was observed. Of most interest for this study was the observation of Enk-ir cells and terminals in areas implicated in both sexual and agonistic behaviors in this species.

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