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Exp Physiol. 2011 May;96(5):495-504. doi: 10.1113/expphysiol.2010.056515. Epub 2011 Feb 11.

The transcriptome of the medullary area postrema: the thirsty rat, the hungry rat and the hypertensive rat.

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The Henry Wellcome Laboratories for Integrative Neuroscience and Endocrinology, University of Bristol, Bristol BS1 3NY, UK.


The area postrema (AP) is a sensory circumventricular organ characterized by extensive fenestrated vasculature and neurons which are capable of detecting circulating signals of osmotic, cardiovascular, immune and metabolic status. The AP can communicate these messages via efferent projections to brainstem and hypothalamic structures that are able to orchestrate an appropriate response. We have used microarrays to profile the transcriptome of the AP in the Sprague-Dawley (SD) and Wistar-Kyoto rat and present here a comprehensive catalogue of gene expression, focusing specifically on the population of ion channels, receptors and G protein-coupled receptors expressed in this sensory tissue; of the G protein-coupled receptors expressed in the rat AP, we identified ∼36% that are orphans, having no established ligand. We have also looked at the ways in which the AP transcriptome responds to the physiological stressors of 72 h dehydration (DSD) and 48 h fasting (FSD) and have performed microarrays in these conditions. Comparison between the DSD and SD or between FSD and SD revealed only a modest number of AP genes that are regulated by these homeostatic challenges. The expression levels of a much larger number of genes are altered in the spontaneously hypertensive rat AP compared with the normotensive Wistar-Kyoto control rat, however. Finally, analysis of these 'hypertension-related' elements revealed genes that are involved in the regulation of both blood pressure and immune function and as such are excellent targets for further study.

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