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  • Sex and estrogen affect the distribution of urocortin-1 immunoreactivity in brainstem autonomic nuclei of the rat.

Sex and estrogen affect the distribution of urocortin-1 immunoreactivity in brainstem autonomic nuclei of the rat.

Brain research bulletin (2015-07-07)
John Ciriello
ABSTRACT

Urocortin-1 (UCN-1), a neuropeptide closely related to the hypothalamic hormone corticotropin-releasing factor, has been associated with stress, feeding behaviors, cardiovascular control, and to exhibit functional gender differences. This study was done to investigate whether estrogen (E; 17β-estradiol) treatment (9 weeks) altered UCN-1 immunoreactivity in brainstem autonomic nuclei in female Wistar rats. Experiments were done in age matched adult males (controls), females (intact), and ovariectomized (OVX) only and OVX+E (30pg/ml plasma) treated females. All animals received intracerebroventricular injections of colchicine and were then perfused transcardially with Zamboni's fixative. Coronal brainstem sections (40μm) were cut and processed immunohistochemically for UCN-1. In males, moderate UCN-1 fiber labeling was found in the nucleus of the solitary tract (NTS) and throughout the rostral ventral lateral medulla (RVLM). Additionally, a few UCN-1 immunoreactive neurons were observed in hypoglossal nucleus (XII), facial nucleus (FN) and nucleus ambiguus (Amb). In intact females and OVX+E females, fewer UCN-1 labeled fibers were found within NTS compared to males. In contrast, the RVLM was more densely innervated in the female cases. Furthermore, in both intact and OVX+E females UCN-1 labeled neurons were found not only within Amb, FN and XII, but also within NTS, RVLM and nucleus raphé pallidus (RP). In OVX only animals, moderate to dense UCN-1 fiber labeling was observed in the NTS complex and throughout RVLM compared to males and the other female groups. However, in contrast to all other groups, UCN-1 labeled neurons were found in greater number within Amb, FN, NTS, dorsal motor nucleus of the vagus, XII, RVLM, magnocellular reticular nucleus and RP. These data not only suggest that sex differences exist in the distribution of UCN-1 within brainstem autonomic areas, but that circulating level of E may play an important role with regards to the function of these UCN-1 neurons during stress responses.

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