14 September 2001
The existence of nerve fibers containing corticotropin-releasing hormone (CRH) immunoreactivity in primary and secondary lymphoid organs from three strains of young adult male rats was examined. Spleens and thymuses from Fischer 344 (F344), Sprague-Dawley (SD) and Lewis (LEW) rats were prepared for immunocytochemistry using antisera directed against CRH. In F344 and SD rats, we were unable to demonstrate CRH-immunoreactive nerves in either the thymus or the spleen. Despite the lack of CRH-containing nerves, CRH immunoreactivity was present in pleotropic cells in the septum, cortex and medulla of the thymus, and in the red and white pulp of spleens from F344 and SD rats. In contrast, CRH+ nerves were found in thymuses and spleens from LEW rats. CRH+ nerves coursed in the interlobular septa, capsule, cortex and medulla of the LEW rat thymus. Large CRH-immunoreactive nerve bundles were present in the hilar region of the LEW rat spleen, and individual CRH+ fibers coursed in the capsule, trabeculae, red pulp, venous sinuses and marginal zone of the white pulp of the spleen. These findings indicate strain differences in neurotransmitter-specific nerves that innervate the rat spleen and thymus under basal conditions.