Galanin immunoreactive neurons in the human hypothalamus: Colocalization with vasopressin‐containing neurons

W. P. Gai, L. B. Geffen, W. W. Blessing

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    Galanin (GA) is a recently described neuropeptide that has been demonstrated to be widely distributed in the hypothalamus of experimental animals. So far there is no immunohistochemical description of GA in the human hypothalamus and, in particular, no studies of the colocalisation of this neuropeptide with other transmitter candidates in the human hypothalamus. We have now investigated this question immunohistochemically by using human brains fixed by vascular perfusion within 24 hours of death. Nerve cell bodies and fibers stained for GA were observed throughout the hypothalamus. Major populations of GA‐ir cell bodies were found in the suprachiasmatic, intermediate, supraoptic, para ventricular, arcuate, tuberomammillary, and supramammillary nuclei. Scattered positive neurons were found in the periventricular preoptic area, the posterior hypothalamic nucleus, the lateral hypothalamic area, and zona incerta. A few positive cells were located in the dorsomedial and ventromedial hypothalamic nuclei. The number of GA‐ir neurons estimated from three brains was 11,100 ± 2,400 for the intermediate nucleus, 57,800 ± 9,100 for the supraoptic nucleus and 47,400 ± 13,900 for the para ventricular nucleus. GA‐ir fibers were widely distributed in the hypothalamus. They were more dense in the periventricular and medial hypothalamic zones, whereas the lateral tuberal nuclei and the dorsolateral part of the supraoptic nucleus contained sparse positive fibers. The mammillary complex contained almost no GA‐ir fibers. In the ventromedial tuberal region, GA‐ir axons formed bundles travelling down in the infundibular stem. In the median eminence the vascular plexus was wrapped by GA‐ir fiber networks. The coexistence of GA with arginine vasopressin (AVP), oxytocin (OXY), and tyrosine hydroxylase (TH) was examined in the supraoptic, paraventricular, and suprachiasmatic nuclei in adjacent paraffin sections. Neurons containing both GA and AVP were very common in the supraoptic nucleus and also occurred in the paraventricular and suprachiasmatic nuclei. The supraoptic and paraventricular nuclei also contained some neurons immunoreactive for both GA and OXY. Neurons positive for GA and TH were rare. The topographic distribution of GA‐ir neuronal structures in the hypothalamus and the colocalization of GA, principally with AVP and to a lesser extent with OXY, in some hypothalamic nuclei constitute anatomical evidence that this neuropeptide may be involved in the regulation of endocrine, autonomic, and behavioural homeostatic responses.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)265-280
    Number of pages16
    JournalJournal of Comparative Neurology
    Issue number3
    Publication statusPublished - 15 Aug 1990


    • immunohistochemistry
    • neuropeptides
    • oxytocin
    • suprachiasmatic nucleus
    • tyrosine hydroxylase


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