Stress induces Fos expression in neurons of the thalamic paraventricular nucleus that innervate limbic forebrain sites

Synapse. 1999 Apr;32(1):13-22. doi: 10.1002/(SICI)1098-2396(199904)32:1<13::AID-SYN2>3.0.CO;2-R.


The paraventricular nucleus of the thalamus (PVT) is a midline thalamic nucleus that responds strongly to exposure to various stressors. Many of the projection targets of PVT neurons, including the medial prefrontal cortex, nucleus accumbens, and central/basolateral nuclei of the amygdala, are also activated by stress. We sought to determine if PVT neurons that respond to stress are those that project to one or more of these forebrain sites. Retrograde tract tracing combined with immunohistochemical detection of Fos protein-like immunoreactivity was used to assess the activation of target-specific populations of PVT projection neurons by mild footshock stress in the rat. Stress markedly increased Fos protein-like immunoreactivity in PVT neurons, but without regard to the projection target of the thalamic neurons. Thus, the percentage of PVT cells that were retrogradely labeled from either the prefrontal cortex, nucleus accumbens, or amygdala, and that expressed Fos-like immunoreactivity did not differ substantially across the three forebrain sites. These data suggest that the PVT may have a role as a generalized relay for information relating to stress, and may serve an important role in the stress-induced activation of limbic forebrain areas.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Amygdala / metabolism
  • Animals
  • Electroshock
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Limbic System / metabolism*
  • Male
  • Neural Pathways / metabolism
  • Neurons / metabolism*
  • Nucleus Accumbens / metabolism
  • Prefrontal Cortex / metabolism
  • Prosencephalon / metabolism*
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-fos / biosynthesis*
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Stress, Physiological / metabolism*
  • Thalamic Nuclei / cytology
  • Thalamic Nuclei / metabolism*


  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-fos