02 November 2005
Previous studies indicated that in the human paraventricular nucleus (PVN) and in the supraoptic nucleus (SON) tyrosine hydroxylase (TH) – the first and rate-limiting enzyme in catecholamine synthesis – is localized mainly in magnocellular neurosecretory neurons. Individual differences were observed among control subjects in number and distribution of TH-immunoreactive (IR) perikarya, indicating that antemortem factors may regulate TH expression. Since a large number of TH-IR perikarya were observed in subjects who suffered from somatic illnesses leading to prolonged osmotic or nonosmotic stimulation of vasopressin (VP) release, we suggested that TH expression is related to the activation of VP neurons. The purpose of our study was to apply (1) in situ hybridization for TH mRNA on human PVN and SON to investigate how the previously reported individual differences in TH protein expression are depicted at the transcriptional level and (2) quantitative TH immunohistochemistry and in situ hybridization for VP mRNA throughout the dorsolateral part of the SON (dl-SON) in order to elucidate whether indeed expression of TH in neurosecretory nuclei depends on activation of VP neurons. Postmortem formalin-fixed, paraffin-embedded hypothalamic sections of 16 control subjects were studied for TH protein and TH and VP mRNAs. For 6 of the above cases, the number of TH-IR neurons and the total VP mRNA levels were estimated throughout the entire dl-SON using an image analysis system. Individual variation was observed in TH mRNA expression which appears to parallel the expression of TH-protein. Using Spearman’s bivariate test, a positive correlation was found between the number of TH-IR- and TH-mRNA-expressing neurons in both PVN and SON (p < 0.01) as well as between the number of TH-IR neurons and the total VP mRNA in the dl-SON (p < 0.05). Our results show (1) that the individual variability in the number of TH-IR neurons within the neurosecretory nuclei might be due to differential expression and/or stability of TH mRNA and (2) that expression of TH-immunoreactivity in human PVN and SON depends on the activation of VP neurons.