Cocaine- and amphetamine-regulated transcript peptide and sympatho-adrenal axis

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Cocaine- and amphetamine-regulated transcript peptide (CART) is constitutively expressed in discrete regions of the mammalian central and peripheral nervous system. Immunohistochemical studies reveal a well-defined network of CART-immunoreactive (irCART) neurons organized along the sympatho-adrenal axis. Sympathetic preganglionic neurons, but not parasympathetic preganglionic neurons, in the lateral horn area are CART-positive; which in turn innervate postganglionic neurons in the paravertebral and prevertebral sympathetic ganglia as well as the adrenal medulla. A population of chromaffin cells in the adrenal medulla is CART-positive; whereas, postganglionic neurons are not. Sympathetic preganglionic neurons themselves are contacted by irCART cell processes arising from neurons in the arcuate nucleus, the retrochiasmatic nucleus and the rostral ventrolateral medulla. Results from several recent studies suggest CART directly excites neurons along the sympathetic neural axis or indirectly by potentiating the action of glutamate on NMDA receptors, as evidenced by an elevation of blood pressure and heart rate following intracerebroventricular, intracisternal or intrathecal administration of the peptide to anesthetized rats or conscious rabbits.

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