Beta-endorphin cells in the arcuate nucleus: projections to the supraoptic nucleus and changes in expression during pregnancy and parturition

Alison Douglas, R J Bicknell, G Leng, J A Russell, S L Meddle

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Supraoptic nucleus oxytocin neurone activity and secretion are inhibited in late pregnancy and parturition by endogenous opioids. Here, we investigated alterations in the projections and gene expression of beta-endorphin/pro-opiomelanocortin neurones in the arcuate nucleus in the pregnant rat. All regions of the arcuate nucleus were found to contain cells immunoreactive for beta-endorphin fluorescent microbeads retrogradely transported from the supraoptic nucleus, and double-labelled neurones (beta-endorphin plus microbeads), showing that beta-endorphin neurones throughout the arcuate nucleus project to the supraoptic nucleus. There was an increase in the number of beta-endorphin-immunoreactive cells in the arcuate nucleus and an increase in the density of beta-endorphin fibres within the supraoptic nucleus and peri-supraoptic region in late pregnancy and parturition, suggesting enhanced expression of beta-endorphin and increased beta-endorphin innervation of the supraoptic nucleus. Pro-opiomelanocortin mRNA expression in the arcuate nucleus increased in late compared to early pregnancy: the number of positive neurones significantly increased in the caudal region. Fos expression (an indicator of neuronal activation) in the arcuate nucleus was colocalized in beta-endorphin neurones in both proestrus and parturient rats, but the number of positive cells did not increase during parturition, suggesting lack of activation of beta-endorphin neurones at birth. Thus, beta-endorphin cells in the arcuate nucleus project to the supraoptic nucleus and increased innervation during pregnancy may explain the enhanced endogenous opioid inhibition of oxytocin neurones.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)768-77
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Neuroendocrinology
Volume14
Issue number10
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2002

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