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Neuroscience. 2007 Nov 30;150(1):8-13. Epub 2007 Sep 21.

Corticotropin-releasing factor projections from limbic forebrain and paraventricular nucleus of the hypothalamus to the region of the ventral tegmental area.

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Center for Studies in Behavioral Neurobiology, Department of Psychology, Concordia University, Room SP244, 7141 Sherbrooke Street West, Montreal, Quebec, Canada H4B 1R6.


Corticotropin-releasing factor (CRF) is a peptide neurotransmitter with high numbers of cell bodies found in limbic regions of the rat brain including the oval nucleus of the bed nucleus of the stria terminalis (BNSTov) and central nucleus of the amygdala (CeA) as well as in the paraventricular nucleus of the hypothalamus (PVN). CRF systems are activated in response to acute stressors and mediate a wide variety of physiological and behavioral responses to acute stress including aversive responses and responses that support appetitive behaviors. CRF is released in the ventral tegmental area (VTA), the cell body region of the mesocorticolimbic dopaminergic neurons, in response to acute stress and plays a role in stress-activation of appetitive behavior [Wang B, Shaham Y, Zitzman D, Azari S, Wise RA, You ZB (2005) Cocaine experience establishes control of midbrain glutamate and dopamine by corticotropin-releasing factor: a role in stress-induced relapse to drug seeking. J Neurosci 25:5389-5396]. However, although it is known that the VTA region contains significant levels of CRF-immunoreactive fibers [Swanson LW, Sawchenko PE, Rivier J, Vale WW (1983) Organization of ovine corticotropin-releasing factor immunoreactive cells and fibers in the rat brain: an immunohistochemical study. Neuroendocrinology 36:165-186], the source of CRF input to the region has not been identified. We used infusions of a fluorescent retrograde tracer, fluorogold, into the VTA region, combined with fluorescent immunocytochemistry for CRF to identify sources of this input. Double-labeled cells were found in BNSTov, CeA and PVN. The percent of fluorogold-labeled cells in each region that were CRF-positive was 30.8, 28.0 and 16.7% respectively. These data point to diffusely distributed sources of CRF-containing fibers in the VTA.

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