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PLoS One. 2014 Jan 8;9(1):e83098. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0083098. eCollection 2014.

Endogenous CNS expression of neurotensin and neurotensin receptors is altered during the postpartum period in outbred mice.

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Department of Zoology, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Madison, Wisconsin, United States of America.
Department of Animal Science, Fort Valley State University, Fort Valley, Georgia, United States of America.
Department of Zoology, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Madison, Wisconsin, United States of America ; Neuroscience Training Program, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Madison, Wisconsin, United States of America.


Neurotensin (NT) is a neuropeptide identical in mice and humans that is produced and released in many CNS regions associated with maternal behavior. NT has been linked to aspects of maternal care and previous studies have indirectly suggested that endogenous NT signaling is altered in the postpartum period. In the present study, we directly examine whether NT and its receptors exhibit altered gene expression in maternal relative to virgin outbred mice using real time quantitative PCR (qPCR) across multiple brain regions. We also examine NT protein levels using anti-NT antibodies and immunohistochemistry in specific brain regions. In the medial preoptic area (MPOA), which is critical for maternal behaviors, mRNA of NT and NT receptor 3 (Sort1) were significantly up-regulated in postpartum mice compared to virgins. NT mRNA was also elevated in postpartum females in the bed nucleus of the stria terminalis dorsal. However, in the lateral septum, NT mRNA was down-regulated in postpartum females. In the paraventricular nucleus of the hypothalamus (PVN), Ntsr1 expression was down-regulated in postpartum females. Neurotensin receptor 2 (Ntsr2) expression was not altered in any brain region tested. In terms of protein expression, NT immunohistochemistry results indicated that NT labeling was elevated in the postpartum brain in the MPOA, lateral hypothalamus, and two subregions of PVN. Together, these findings indicate that endogenous changes occur in NT and its receptors across multiple brain regions, and these likely support the emergence of some maternal behaviors.

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