Opioid precursor gene expression in the human hypothalamus

Renat R. Sukhov, Lary C. Walker, Naomi E. Rance, Donald L. Price, W. Scott Young

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

43 Scopus citations


Using in situ hybridization histochemistry, we studied the distribution of neurons that express preproopiomelanocortin (pre‐POMC), preprodynorphin (pre‐PDYN), and preproenkephalin (pre‐PENK) gene transcripts within the human hypothalamus and surrounding structures. Of the three opioid systems, pre‐POMC neurons have the most restricted distribution. Pre‐POMC cells are most numerous in the infundibular nucleus and retrochiasmatic area of the mediobasal hypothalamus; a few labeled cells are present within the boundaries of the ventromedial nucleus and infundibular stalk. Pre‐POMC message was not found in the limited samples of structures adjacent to the hypothalamus. In contrast to neurons that express pre‐POMC, neurons expressing pre‐PDYN and pre‐PENK are more widely represented throughout the hypothalamus and extrahypothalamic structures. However, pre‐PDYN and pre‐PENK cells differ from one another in distribution. Pre‐PDYN message is especially abundant in neurons of the tuberal and mammillary regions, with a distinct population of labeled cells in the premammillary nucleus and dorsal posterior hypothalamus. Pre‐PDYN gene expression also is found in neurons of the dorsomedial nucleus, ventromedial nucleus, caudal magnocellular portion of the paraventricular nucleus, dorsolateral supraoptic: nucleus, tuberomammillary nucleus, caudal lateral hypothalamus, and retrochiasmatic area. In structures immediately adjacent to the hypothalamus, pre‐PDYN neurons were observed in the caudate nucleus, putamen, cortical nucleus of the amygdala, and bed nucleus of the stria terminalis. Pre‐PENK neurons occur in varying numbers in all hypothalamic nuclei except the mammillary bodies. The chiasmatic region is particularly rich in pre‐PENK neurons, with the highest packing density in the intermediate nucleus [the intermediate nucleus (Braak and Braak [1987] Anat. Embryol. 176:315–330) has also been termed the sexually dimorphic: nucleus of the preoptic area (SDA‐POA; Swaab and Fliers [1985] Science 228:1112–1115) or the interstitial nucleus of the anterior hypothalamus 1 (Allen et al. [1989] J. Neurosci. 9:497–506)], dorsal suprachiasmatic nucleus, medial preoptic area, and rostral lateral hypothalamic area. Pre‐PENK neurons are numerous in the infundibular nucleus, ventromedial nucleus, dorsomedial nucleus, caudal parvicellular portion of the paraventricular nucleus, tuberomammillary nucleus, lateral hypothalamus, and retrochiasmatic area. Only a few lightly labeled cells were found in the periphery of the supraoptic nucleus and lateral tuberal nucleus. In areas adjacent tothe hypothalamus, cells that contain pre‐PENK message occur in the nucleus basalis of Meynert, central nucleus of amygdala, bed nucleus of the stria terminalis, caudate nucleus, and putamen. The differential distribution of pre‐POMC, pre‐PDYN, and pre‐PENK neurons in the human hypothalamus suggests that these three opioid systems influence hypothalamic functions in quite different ways. © 1995 Wiley‐Liss, Inc.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)604-622
Number of pages19
JournalJournal of Comparative Neurology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Mar 20 1995


  • basal forebrain
  • dynorphin
  • enkephalin
  • intermediate nucleus
  • proopiomelanocortin

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)


Dive into the research topics of 'Opioid precursor gene expression in the human hypothalamus'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this