Neurobiology of disease

Pituitary adenylate cyclase activating polypeptide (PACAP) and its receptor 1 (PAC1) in the human infant brain and changes in the Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).

PMID 28392470


Pituitary adenylate cyclase activating polypeptide (PACAP) and its complementary receptor, PAC1, are crucial in central respiratory control. PACAP Knockout (KO) mice exhibit a SIDS-like phenotype, with an inability to overcome noxious insults, compression of baseline ventilation, and death in the early post-neonatal period. PAC1 KO demonstrate similar attributes to PACAP-null mice, but with the addition of increased pulmonary artery pressure, consequently leading to heart failure and death. This study establishes a detailed interpretation of the neuroanatomical distribution and localization of both PACAP and PAC1 in the human infant brainstem and hippocampus, to determine whether any changes in expression are evident in infants who died of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) and any relationships to risk factors of SIDS including smoke exposure and sleep related parameters. Immunohistochemistry for PACAP and PAC1 was performed on formalin fixed and paraffin embedded human infant brain tissue of SIDS (n=32) and non-SIDS (n=12). The highest expression of PACAP was found in the hypoglossal (XII) of the brainstem medulla and lowest expression in the subiculum of the hippocampus. Highest expression of PAC1 was also found in XII of the medulla and lowest in the midbrain dorsal raphe (MBDR) and inferior colliculus. SIDS compared to non-SIDS had higher PACAP in the MBDR (p<0.05) and lower PAC1 in the medulla arcuate nucleus (p<0.001). Correlations were found between PACAP and PAC1 with the risk factors of smoke exposure, bed sharing, upper respiratory tract infection (URTI) and seasonal temperatures. The findings of this study show for the first time that some abnormalities of the PACAP system are evident in the SIDS brain and could contribute to the mechanisms of infants succumbing to SIDS.