Neuropeptide Y (NPY) neurons in the arcuate nucleus of the hypothalamus (ARH) have been shown to play an important role in modulating LH secretion. One mechanism by which the ARH NPY system may regulate LH secretion is by modulating GnRH neuronal function. Thus, the present study examined whether the ARH NPY system provided direct input to GnRH cell bodies in the preoptic area (POA), as well as to their nerve terminals in the median eminence (ME). The possible involvement of the NPY Y1 receptor subtype in mediating the effects of NPY was also investigated. Lactating rats were used in these studies because they have increased hypothalamic NPY content, especially in the ARH/ME areas, making it easier to detect NPY fibers and terminals. The anterograde tracer, Phaseolus vulgaris leucoagglutinin (PHA-L), was iontophoresed into the ARH of lactating rats; and triple-label immunofluorescence was performed, with the aid of confocal microscopy, to visualize NPY, PHA-L, and GnRH. GnRH cell bodies were found scattered throughout the organum vasculosum laminae terminalis (OVLT)/POA region, and NPY/PHA-L double-labeled fibers were found in very close proximity to numerous GnRH perikarya. In the ME, double-labeled NPY/PHA-L fibers were found in the inner and external zones, and they were found in close proximity to GnRH neuronal fibers. Using a NPY Y1 specific antibody, double-label immunofluorescence was performed to examine whether the Y1 receptor subtype was expressed in GnRH neurons. No convincing Y1-positive staining was found in GnRH cell bodies in the OVLT/POA region. However, abundant Y1-positive fiber and cell staining were observed throughout the region, and Y1-positive fibers were found in close apposition to GnRH cell bodies. In contrast, numerous GnRH nerve fibers and terminals in both the OVLT and ME were colocalized with Y1-positive staining. The results of this study suggest that ARH NPY neurons come in close contact with GnRH neurons and may provide direct input to both GnRH cell bodies in the POA region and to their nerve terminals in the ME. The Y1 receptor subtype may be directly involved in NPY modulation of GnRH secretion from its nerve terminals.
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