Immunocytochemical localization of prolactin-releasing peptide in the rat brain

Endocrinology. 1999 May;140(5):2326-33. doi: 10.1210/endo.140.5.6685.


A hypothalamic peptide that stimulates PRL release has recently been found as a ligand of an orphan receptor and named PRL-releasing peptide (PrRP). PrRP and its receptor were mainly detected in the hypothalamus and pituitary gland, respectively. Its characteristics suggested PrRP to be a novel hypophysiotropic peptide that stimulates the anterior pituitary PRL cell; however, this remained to be confirmed morphologically. We therefore performed an immunocytochemical study to locate PrRP in the rat brain using the region-specific monoclonal antibodies, P2L-1C and P2L-1T, which recognize the C-terminal and the internal sequence of PrRP, respectively. Our results clearly show that dense immunoreactive nerve fiber networks are present in the paraventricular hypothalamic nucleus, supraoptic nucleus, paratenial thalamic nucleus, basolateral amygdaloid nucleus, and bed nucleus of the stria terminalis. A small number of PrRP nerve fibers was also observed in the neural lobe of the hypophysis. However, no immunopositive fiber was observed in the external region of the median eminence, which is known to be the release site of the classical hypophysiotropic hormones. Also, the distribution of PrRP was not changed during the estrous cycle. We therefore concluded that PrRP probably differs from classical hypothalamic releasing hormones. We found the immunoreactive cell bodies to be mainly in the caudal portion of the dorsomedial hypothalamic nucleus and solitary nucleus. A double immunocytochemical procedure revealed that some PrRP-positive neurons showed synaptic contact with oxytocin-positive cell bodies in the paraventricular hypothalamic nucleus, which suggests that PrRP regulates the function of oxytocin neurons. This is the first report to demonstrate the localization of the novel hypothalamic peptide, PrRP, and we therefore suggest that it takes part in a variety of brain functions. However, it is not yet known how PrRP is transported to the pituitary gland, which is the site that contains the greatest concentration of receptors to this new peptide. Therefore, additional work will be required to resolve this discrepancy between ligand and receptor site location.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antibodies, Monoclonal
  • Brain / cytology
  • Brain Chemistry*
  • Estrus
  • Female
  • Hypothalamic Hormones / analysis*
  • Hypothalamus / chemistry
  • Immunohistochemistry*
  • Nerve Fibers / chemistry
  • Neurons / chemistry
  • Neurons / cytology
  • Neuropeptides / analysis*
  • Oxytocin / analysis
  • Pituitary Gland / chemistry
  • Prolactin-Releasing Hormone
  • Rats
  • Rats, Inbred F344
  • Tissue Distribution
  • Vasopressins / analysis


  • Antibodies, Monoclonal
  • Hypothalamic Hormones
  • Neuropeptides
  • Prlh protein, rat
  • Prolactin-Releasing Hormone
  • Vasopressins
  • Oxytocin