Evidence that Orexin-Containing Neurones Provide Direct Input to Gonadotropin-Releasing Hormone Neurones in the Ovine Hypothalamus

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Orexins A and B (ORX) have been added recently to the growing list of neuropeptides implicated in feeding and drinking behaviour as well as neuroendocrine function. In the present study, we have used single and dual labelling immunohistochemistry and a rabbit polyclonal anti-orexin-A antibody, which recognizes both ORX A and B, to examine ORX pathways in the sheep hypothalamus. ORX immunoreactive cells were distributed in the dorsomedial hypothalamic nucleus, lateral hypothalamic area, zona incerta and perifornical area; a few cells were also observed in the anterior hypothalamic area. In contrast to distribution in the rat brain, most of the ORX immunoreactive cells are localized to the dorsomedial hypothalamic nucleus and perifornical area; scattered cells are found in lateral hypothalamic area. ORX immunoreactive fibres were widely distributed throughout the hypothalamus and preoptic area with dense innervation of the medial preoptic area and bed nucleus of stria terminalis. Dual labelling demonstrated widespread expression of the long form of the leptin receptor within all ORX cells that were examined. Thirty percent of the gonadotropin releasing hormone (GnRH) cells that were examined had ORX immunoreactive terminals in close contact with no regional or sex differences. FluoroGold injections into the preoptic area retrogradely labelled a subpopulation of ORX cells in the lateral hypothalamic/perifornical area, showing ORX cells of this region project to the preoptic and could potentially provide input to GnRH cells. These findings suggest an integral role for ORX in the regulation of GnRH cells in the sheep and thus provide evidence of a novel mechanism whereby leptin can influence reproductive neuroendocrine function.

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