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Neuroscience. 1996 Jun;72(3):767-83.

Differential messenger RNA expression of prodynorphin and proenkephalin in the human brain.

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Karolinska Institute, Department of Clinical Neuroscience, Psychiatry Section, Karolinska Hospital, Stockholm, Sweden.

Erratum in

  • Neuroscience 1996 Sep;74(1):293.


The opiate system is involved in a wide variety of neural functions including pain perception, neuroendocrine regulation, memory, drug reward, and tolerance. Such functions imply that endogenous opioid peptides should have anatomical interactions with limbic brain structures believed to be involved in the experience and expression of emotion. Using in situ hybridization histochemistry, the messenger RNA expression of the opioid precursors, prodynorphin and proenkephalin, was studied in whole hemisphere human brain tissue. Different components of the limbic system were found to be characterized by a high gene expression of either prodynorphin or proenkephalin messenger RNA. Brain regions traditionally included within the limbic system (e.g. amygdala, hippocampus, entorhinal cortex and cingulate cortex) as well as limbic-associated regions including the ventromedial prefrontal cortex and patch compartment of the neostriatum showed high prodynorphin messenger RNA expression. In contrast, high levels of proenkephalin messenger RNA were more widely expressed in the hypothalamus, periaqueductal gray, various mesencephalic nuclei, bed nucleus of the stria terminalis, and ventral pallidum; brain regions associated with endocrine-reticular-motor continuum of the limbic system. The marked anatomical dissociation between the expression of these two opioid peptide genes, seen clearly in whole hemisphere sections, indicates that distinct functions must be subserved by the prodynorphin and proenkephalin systems in the human brain.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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