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J Comp Neurol. 2007 Feb 1;500(4):761-76.

Hypothalamic and brainstem sources of pituitary adenylate cyclase-activating polypeptide nerve fibers innervating the hypothalamic paraventricular nucleus in the rat.

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Department of Pathology and Cell Biology, University of South Florida College of Medicine, Tampa, Florida 33612, USA.


The hypothalamic paraventricular nucleus (PVN) coordinates major neuroendocrine and behavioral mechanisms, particularly responses to homeostatic challenges. Parvocellular and magnocellular PVN neurons are richly innervated by pituitary adenylate cyclase-activating polypeptide (PACAP) axons. Our recent functional observations have also suggested that PACAP may be an excitatory neuropeptide at the level of the PVN. Nevertheless, the exact localization of PACAP-producing neurons that project to the PVN is not understood. The present study examined the specific contribution of various brain areas sending PACAP innervation to the rat PVN by using iontophoretic microinjections of the retrograde neuroanatomical tracer cholera toxin B subunit (CTb). Retrograde transport was evaluated from hypothalamic and brainstem sections by using multiple labeling immunofluorescence for CTb and PACAP. PACAP-containing cell groups were found to be retrogradely labeled from the PVN in the median preoptic nucleus; preoptic and lateral hypothalamic areas; arcuate, dorsomedial, ventromedial, and supramammillary nuclei; ventrolateral midbrain periaqueductal gray; rostral and midlevel ventrolateral medulla, including the C1 catecholamine cell group; nucleus of the solitary tract; and dorsal motor nucleus of vagus. Minor PACAP projections with scattered double-labeled neurons originated from the parabrachial nucleus, pericoeruleus area, and caudal regions of the nucleus of the solitary tract and ventrolateral medulla. These observations indicate a multisite origin of PACAP innervation to the PVN and provide a strong chemical neuroanatomical foundation for interaction between PACAP and its potential target neurons in the PVN, such as parvocellular CRH neurons, controlling physiologic responses to stressful challenges and other neuroendocrine or preautonomic PVN neurons.

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