Specific Expression of Optically Active Reporter Gene in Arginine Vasopressin-Secreting Neurosecretory Cells in the Hypothalamic-Neurohypophyseal System

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The anti-diuretic hormone arginine vasopressin (AVP) is synthesised in the magnocellular neurosecretory cells (MNCs) in the paraventricular nucleus (PVN) and the supraoptic nucleus (SON) of the hypothalamus. AVP-containing MNCs that project their axon terminals to the posterior pituitary can be identified using immunohistochemical techniques with specific antibodies recognising AVP and neurophysin II, and by virtue of their electrophysiological properties. Recently, we generated transgenic rats expressing an AVP-enhanced green fluorescent protein (eGFP) fusion gene in AVP-containing MNCs. In this transgenic rat, eGFP mRNA was observed in the PVN and the SON, and eGFP fluorescence was seen in the PVN and the SON, and also in the posterior pituitary, indicating transport of transgene protein down MNC axons to storage in nerve terminals. The expression of the AVP-eGFP transgene and eGFP fluorescence in the PVN and the SON was markedly increased after dehydration and chronic salt-loading. On the other hand, AVP-containing parvocellular neurosecretory cells in the PVN that are involved in the activation of the hypothalamic-pituitary adrenal axis exhibit robust AVP-eGFP fluorescence after bilateral adrenalectomy and intraperitoneal administration of lipopolysaccharide. In the median eminence, the internal and external layer showed strong fluorescence for eGFP after osmotic stimuli and stressful conditions, respectively, again indicating appropriate transport of transgene traslation products. Brain slices and acutely-dissociated MNCs and axon terminals also exhibited strong fluorescence, as observed under fluorescence microscopy. The AVP-eGFP transgenic animals are thus unique and provide a useful tool to study AVP-secreting cells in vivo for electrophysiology, imaging analysis such as intracellular Ca2+ imaging, organ culture and in vivo monitoring of dynamic change in AVP secretion.

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