The distribution of secretoneurin, a peptide derived from its precursor secretogranin II by proteolytic processing, was studied in the central nervous system of the rat by immunocytochemistry and radioimmunoassay and compared to the distribution of secretogranin II messenger RNA by using in situ hybridization. With a specific antiserum a distinct staining of fibers and to a lesser extent also of perikarya was observed throughout the central nervous system. A high density of immunoreactive fibers and terminals was found in several brain areas, i.e. the lateral septum, the medial parts of the amygdala, some medial thalamic nuclei, the hypothalamus, habenula, nucleus interpeduncularis, locus coeruleus, nucleus tractus solitarii, the substantiae gelatinosae of the caudal trigeminal nucleus and of the spinal cord. The quantitative distribution as measured by a radioimmunoassay agreed well with the varying densities of immunoreactivity found by immunocytochemistry. The highest concentrations of this peptide were present in the hypothalamus, in particular, in the median eminence and are comparable to those of the most highly concentrated neuropeptides. The distribution of immunopositive perikarya corresponded well with that of secretogranin II messenger RNA obtained by in situ hybridization. The pattern of secretoneurin expression in rat brain was widespread and unique, partially overlapping with established chemical transmitters and neuropeptides. The functional significance of this new brain peptide remains to be established.
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