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J Comp Neurol. 1996 Sep 9;373(1):76-89.

Cellular distribution of neurotensin receptors in rat brain: immunohistochemical study using an antipeptide antibody against the cloned high affinity receptor.

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INSERM U339, Hôpital St Antoine, Paris, France.


Receptors for the neuropeptide, neurotensin, were localized by immunohistochemistry in the rat brain by using an antibody raised against a sequence of the third intracellular loop of the cloned high affinity receptor. Selective receptor immunostaining was observed throughout the brain and brainstem. This immunostaining was totally prevented by preadsorbing the antibody with the immunogenic peptide. The regional distribution of the immunoreactivity conformed for the most part to that of [3H]- or [125I]-neurotensin binding sites previously identified by autoradiography. Thus, the highest levels of immunostaining were observed in the islands of Calleja, diagonal band of Broca, magnocellular preoptic nucleus, pre- and parasubiculum, suprachiasmatic nucleus, anterodorsal nucleus of the thalamus, substantia nigra, ventral tegmental area, pontine nuclei and dorsal motor nucleus of the vagus, all of which had previously been documented to contain high densities of neurotensin binding sites. There were, however, a number of regions reportedly endowed with neurotensin binding sites, including the central amygdaloid nucleus, periaqueductal gray, outer layer of the superior colliculus and dorsal tegmental nucleus, which showed no or divergent patterns of immunostaining, suggesting that they might be expressing a molecularly distinct form of the receptor. At the cellular level, neurotensin receptor immunoreactivity was predominantly associated with perikarya and dendrites in some regions (e.g., in the basal forebrain, ventral midbrain, pons and rostral medulla) and with axons and axon terminals in others (e.g., in the lateral septum, bed nucleus of the stria terminalis, neostriatum, paraventricular nucleus of the thalamus and nucleus of the solitary tract). These data indicate that neurotensin may act both post- and presynaptically in the central nervous system and confirm that some of its effects are exerted on projection neurons. There were also areas, such as the cerebral cortex, nucleus accumbens and para- and periventricular nucleus of the hypothalamus, which contained both immunoreactive perikarya/dendrites and axon terminals, consistent with either a joint association of the receptor with afferent and efferent elements or its presence on interneurons. Taken together, these results also suggest that the neurotensin high affinity receptor protein is associated with a neuronal population that is more extensive than originally surmised from in situ hybridization studies.

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