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Brain Res Mol Brain Res. 1994 Jan;21(1-2):85-98.

Preproenkephalin mRNA expression in the developing and adult rat brain.

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Department of Neuroscience and Anatomy, Pennsylvania State University, M.S. Hershey Medical Center, Hershey 17033.


[Met5]-Enkephalin is derived from the protein precursor, proenkephalin A, which in turn is encoded by the preproenkephalin (PPE) gene. [Met5]-Enkephalin is not only a putative neuromodulatory substance, but also serves as a growth factor (= opioid growth factor, OGF). OGF exerts an inhibitory influence on the developing nervous system and is especially targeted to cell proliferative and differentiative events. This study examined the relationship of PPE mRNA expression to late prenatal and postnatal rat brain development. Northern blot analysis of the whole brain and cerebellum showed that message is present in the fetal nervous system on prenatal day 15 (the earliest timepoint examined), is expressed at relatively similar levels within each tissue during the first 2 postnatal weeks, and reaches adult levels by the beginning of the 3rd postnatal week. In situ hybridization methodology revealed that PPE mRNA was prominent in areas associated with cell generation. Message was found in sites of primary (i.e., ventricular region) and secondary (e.g., external germinal layer of the cerebellum) cellular replication, as well as in discrete foci of cell proliferation (e.g., medullary layer of the cerebellum). PPE mRNA was also present for varying periods of time in postmitotic cells. During development, a number of patterns (decrease, increase, and no perceptible change) of PPE mRNA could be detected in relationship to the fetal/neonatal period. Given the strong evidence (e.g., regulation of cell proliferation and differentiation, temporal and spatial patterns of peptide and zeta opioid receptor) that enkephalin immunoreactivity is associated with proliferating and differentiating neurons and glia, these results suggest that the source of [Met5]-enkephalin is both autocrine and paracrine in nature.

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