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J Comp Neurol. 2012 Mar 1;520(4):770-97. doi: 10.1002/cne.22779.

Ontogeny of the cocaine- and amphetamine-regulated transcript (CART) neuropeptide system in the brain of zebrafish, Danio rerio.

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Indian Institute of Science Education and Research Pune, Pashan, Pune 411021, India.


The cocaine- and amphetamine-regulated transcript (CART) peptidergic system is involved in processing diverse neuronal functions in adult animals, including energy metabolism. Although CART is widely distributed in the brain of a range of vertebrates, the ontogeny of this system has not been explored. The CART-immunoreactive system in the zebrafish central nervous system (CNS) was studied across developmental stages until adulthood. The peptide is expressed as early as 24 hours post fertilization and establishes itself in several discrete areas of the brain and spinal cord as development progresses. The trends in CART ontogeny suggest that it may be involved in the establishment of commissural tracts, typically expressing early but subsequently decaying. CART elements are commonly overrepresented in diverse sensory areas like the olfactory, photic, and acoustico-mechanosensory systems, perhaps indicating a role for the peptide in sensory perception. Key neuroendocrine centers, like the preoptic area, hypothalamus, and pituitary, conspicuously show CART innervations, suggesting functions analogous to those demonstrated in other chordates. Uniquely, the epiphysis also appears to employ CART as a neurotransmitter. The entopeduncular nucleus is a major CART-containing group in the adult teleost forebrain that may participate in glucose sensing. This region responds to glucose in the 15-day larvae, suggesting that the energy status sensing CART circuits is active early in development. The pattern of CART expression in zebrafish suggests conserved evolutionary trends among vertebrate species. Developmental expression profiling reveals putative novel functions and establishes zebrafish as a model to investigate CART function in physiology and development.

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