, Volume 83, Issue 1, pp 5-16

Evidence for local corticotropin releasing factor (CRF)-immunoreactive neuronal circuits in the paraventricular nucleus of the rat hypothalamus

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The interrelationships of corticotropin-releasing factor (CRF) immunoreactive neuronal cell bodies and processes have been examined in the paraventricular nucleus (PVN) of adrenalectomized-dexamethesone treated rats. Antisera generated against ovine CRF (oCRF) were used in the peroxidase-anti-peroxidase-complex (PAP)-immunocytochemical method at both the light and electron microscopic levels. In this experimental model, a great number of CRF-immunoreactive neurons were detected in the parvocellular subdivisions of the PVN and a few scattered labelled parvocellular neurons were also observed within the magnocellular subunits. Characteristic features of immunolabeled perikarya included hypertrophied rough endoplasmic reticulum with dilated endoplasmic cisternae, well developed Golgi complexes and increased numbers of neurosecretory granules. These features are interpreted to indicate accelerated hormone synthesis as a result of adrenalectomy. Afferent fibers communicated with dendrites and somata of CRF-immunoreactive neurons via both symmetrical and asymmetrical synapses. Some neurons exhibited somatic appendages and these structures were also observed to receive synaptic terminals. Within both the PVN and its adjacent neuropil, CRF-immunoreactive axons demonstrated varicosites which contained accumulations of densecore vesicles. CRF-containing axons were observed to branch into axon collaterals. These axons or axon collaterals established axo-somatic synapses on CRF-producing neurons in the parvocellular regions of the PVN, while in the magnocellular area of the nucleus they were found in juxtaposition with unlabeled magnocellular neuronal cell bodies or in synaptic contact with their dendrites. The presence of CRF-immunoreactive material in presynaptic structures suggests that the neurohormone may participate in mechanisms of synaptic transfer.

These ultrastructural data indicate that the function of the paraventricular CRF-synthesizing neurons is adrenal steroid hormone dependent. They also provide morphological evidence for the existence of a neuronal ultrashort feedback mechanism within the PVN for the regulation of CRF production and possibly that of other peptide hormones contained within this complex.

Supported by NIH grant NS 19266 to WKP