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J Comp Neurol. 2001 Apr 30;433(2):222-38.

Neuropeptide expression in rat paraventricular hypothalamic neurons that project to the spinal cord.

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Division of Cell Biology, Department of Biomedicine and Surgery, Faculty of Health Sciences, Linköping University, S-581 85 Linköping, Sweden.


The paraventricular hypothalamic nucleus (PVH) exerts many of its regulatory functions through projections to spinal cord neurons that control autonomic and sensory functions. By using in situ hybridization histochemistry in combination with retrograde tract tracing, we analyzed the peptide expression among neurons in the rat PVH that send axons to the spinal cord. Projection neurons were labeled by immunohistochemical detection of retrogradely transported cholera toxin subunit B, and radiolabeled long riboprobes were used to identify neurons containing dynorphin, enkephalin, or oxytocin mRNA. Of the spinally projecting neurons in the PVH, approximately 40% expressed dynorphin mRNA, 40% expressed oxytocin mRNA, and 20% expressed enkephalin mRNA. Taken together with our previous findings on the distribution of vasopressin-expressing neurons in the PVH (Hallbeck and Blomqvist [1999] J. Comp. Neurol. 411:201-211), the results demonstrated that the different PVH subdivisions display distinct peptide expression patterns among the spinal cord-projecting neurons. Thus, the lateral parvocellular subdivision contained large numbers of spinal cord-projecting neurons that express any of the four investigated peptides, whereas the ventral part of the medial parvocellular subdivision displayed a strong preponderance for dynorphin- and vasopressin-expressing cells. The dorsal parvocellular subdivision almost exclusively contained dynorphin- and oxytocin-expressing spinal cord-projecting neurons. This parcellation of the peptide-expressing neurons suggested a functional diversity among the spinal cord-projecting subdivisions of the PVH that provide an anatomic basis for its various and distinct influences on autonomic and sensory processing at the spinal level.

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