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PloS one

Relative number and distribution of murine hypothalamic proopiomelanocortin neurons innervating distinct target sites.


PMID 21991375

Abstract

Proopiomelanocortin (POMC) neurons send projections widely throughout the brain consistent with their role in regulating numerous homeostatic processes and mediating analgesia and reward. Recent data suggest that POMC neurons located in the rostral and caudal extents of the arcuate nucleus of the hypothalamus may mediate selective actions, however it is not clear if POMC neurons in these regions of the arcuate nucleus innervate specific target sites. In the present study, fluorescent microspheres and cholera toxin B were used to retrogradely label POMC neurons in POMC-DsRed transgenic mice. The number and location of POMC cells projecting to the supraoptic nucleus, periaqueductal gray, ventral tegmental area, paraventricular nucleus, lateral hypothalamic nucleus, amygdala and the dosal vagal complex was determined. Tracer injected unilaterally labeled POMC neurons in both sides of the arcuate nucleus. While the total number of retrogradely labeled cells in the arcuate nucleus varied by injection site, less than 10% of POMC neurons were labeled with tracer injected into any target area. Limited target sites appear to be preferentially innervated by POMC neurons that reside in the rostral or caudal extremes of the arcuate nucleus, whereas the majority of target sites are innervated by diffusely distributed POMC neurons. The modest number of cells projecting to each target site indicates that relatively few POMC neurons may mediate potent and specific physiologic responses and therefore disturbed signaling in a very few POMC neurons may have significant consequences.