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Substance P in the suprachiasmatic nucleus of the rat: an immunohistochemical and in situ hybridization study

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Using a biotin-streptavidin-horseradish peroxidase (HRP) immunohistochemical technique the distribution of substance P-immunoreactive neuronal elements was investigated in the rat suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN). Substance P-immunoreactive nerve fibres and varicosities were distributed throughout the suprachiasmatic nucleus, with the largest accumulation in its ventral part. Because this location overlaps with the innervation of retinal afferents, the distribution and density of substance P-immunoreactive fibres in bilaterally enucleated rats were compared to normal rats. The density of substance P-immunoreactive fibres and nerve terminals in the ventral part of the suprachiasmatic nuclei was reduced in the rats with bilateral destruction of the optic nerves, whereas the density of fibres and nerve terminals in the dorsal part as well as other retinal target areas in the thalamus and mesencephalon was unaffected. In rats pretreated with an intraventricular injection of colchicine several substance P-immunoreactive perikarya were identified in the suprachiasmatic nucleus. The immunoreactive neurons, measuring 9.7 μm±1.1 μm in diameter, were frequently observed in the central core of the nucleus and to a lesser extent in the dorsomedial and ventrolateral subparts. Using in situ hybridization histochemistry pre-protachykinin-A mRNA was found in the same part of the SCN indicating that synthesis of substance P takes place in SCN neurons. Using a double immunohistochemical approach applying diaminobenzidine and benzidinedihydrochloride as chromagens substance P-, vasoactive intestinal peptide (VIP)-, and vasopressin/neurophysin-immunoreactivities were identified in the same brain section. The substance P-immunoreactive perikarya constituted a separate population of SCN neurons, which were not vasopressin-, neurophysin- or VIP-immunoreactive. Taken together, these observations show that substance P is contained in the retinohypothalamic pathway and within a group of SCN cell bodies, indiating that substance P may play a role in the generation and entrainment of circadian rhythmicity.

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Correspondence to Jens D. Mikkelsen.

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Mikkelsen, J.D., Larsen, P.J. Substance P in the suprachiasmatic nucleus of the rat: an immunohistochemical and in situ hybridization study. Histochemistry 100, 3–16 (1993). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF00268873

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  • Colchicine
  • Nerve Terminal
  • Vasoactive Intestinal Peptide
  • Ventral Part
  • Suprachiasmatic Nucleus