Singular subsets of locus coeruleus neurons may recover tyrosine hydroxylase phenotype transiently expressed during development

Brain Res Mol Brain Res. 2000 Mar 29;76(2):275-81. doi: 10.1016/s0169-328x(00)00007-3.


The number of tyrosine hydroxylase (TH)-expressing neurons appears to be precisely determined in basal conditions within the noradrenergic pontine nucleus locus coeruleus (LC). However, additional neurons exhibiting TH phenotype have been observed in the adult rat LC following a single administration of RU 24722, a potent inducer of TH expression specific to the LC. The neurons acquiring TH phenotype following treatment had a topographical localization similar to that of the neurons, which transiently expressed TH during postnatal development and lost TH phenotype during the third postnatal week. The idea that the fluctuation of TH phenotype in singular subsets of LC neurons during development may be selectively restored in adults is of particular interest. The present study attempted to determine whether the cells in which TH expression was repressed during the third postnatal week could correspond to those which exhibited TH phenotype in response to RU 24722 treatment in adults. We first verified that no massive cell death occurred in the LC during the period ranging from days 13 to 30. Then, we observed that both cell populations exhibited the same altered steady-state concentration of TH-mRNA as compared to cells that permanently expressed TH. Finally, we demonstrated the presence of TH-negative neurons expressing the homeodomain transcription factor Phox2a, specific for the determination of noradrenergic phenotype, providing further evidence that "resting-noradrenergic" neurons exist in the adult rat LC under basal conditions. These neurons provide interesting prospective for gain of noradrenergic function when classical noradrenergic LC neurons are impaired.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aging / physiology*
  • Animals
  • Apoptosis
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Developmental
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Enzymologic* / drug effects
  • Image Processing, Computer-Assisted
  • In Situ Hybridization
  • Locus Coeruleus / enzymology*
  • Locus Coeruleus / growth & development
  • Male
  • Neurons / classification
  • Neurons / cytology
  • Neurons / enzymology*
  • Phenotype
  • RNA, Messenger / analysis
  • Rats
  • Rats, Inbred Strains
  • Transcription, Genetic / drug effects
  • Tyrosine 3-Monooxygenase / genetics*
  • Vincamine / analogs & derivatives
  • Vincamine / pharmacology


  • RNA, Messenger
  • Vincamine
  • vindeburnol
  • Tyrosine 3-Monooxygenase