The cocaine- and amphetamine-regulated transcript (CART) neuropeptide has been implicated in the neural regulation of energy homeostasis across vertebrate phyla. By using gene-specific in situ hybridization, we have mapped the distribution of the four CART mRNAs in the central nervous system of the adult zebrafish. The widespread neuronal expression pattern for CART 2 and 4 suggests a prominent role for the peptide in processing sensory information from diverse modalities including olfactory and visual inputs. In contrast, CART 1 and 3 have a much more restricted distribution, predominantly located in the nucleus of the medial longitudinal fasciculus (NMLF) and entopeduncular nucleus (EN), respectively. Enrichment of CART 2 and 4 in the preoptic and tuberal areas emphasizes the importance of CART in neuroendocrine functions. Starvation resulted in a significant decrease in CART-positive cells in the nucleus recessus lateralis (NRL) and nucleus lateralis tuberis (NLT) hypothalamic regions, suggesting a function in energy homeostasis for these neurons. Similarly, the EN emerges as a novel energy status–responsive region. Not only is there abundant and overlapping expression of CART 2, 3, and 4 in the EN, but also starvation induced a decrease in CART-expressing neurons in this region. The cellular resolution mapping of CART mRNA and the response of CART-expressing nuclei to starvation underscores the importance of CART neuropeptide in energy processing. Additionally, the regional and gene-specific responses to energy levels suggest a complex, interactive network whereby the four CART gene products may have nonredundant functions in energy homeostasis. J. Comp. Neurol. 522:2266–2285, 2014. © 2013 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.
By using RNA in situ hybridization, the authors map the expression of the four CART neuropeptide coding genes in the adult zebrafish brain with cellular resolution. These genes respond differentially and in spatially distinct patterns upon energy status changes, suggesting distinct regulatory functions.