Distribution of mRNAs encoding the arylhydrocarbon receptor, arylhydrocarbon receptor nuclear translocator, and arylhydrocarbon receptor nuclear translocator-2 in the rat brain and brainstem

J Comp Neurol. 2000 Nov 20;427(3):428-39. doi: 10.1002/1096-9861(20001120)427:3<428::aid-cne9>3.0.co;2-p.


Dioxin exposure alters a variety of neural functions, most likely through activation of the arylhydrocarbon receptor (AhR) pathway. Many of the adverse effects, including disruption of circadian changes in hormone release and depressed appetite, seem to be mediated by hypothalamic and/or brainstem neurons. However, it is unclear whether these effects are direct or indirect, because there have been no comprehensive studies mapping the expression of components of the AhR pathway in the brain. Therefore, we used a sensitive in situ hybridization histochemical (ISHH) method to map the neural expression of AhR mRNA, as well as those of the mRNAs encoding the AhR dimerization partners, arylhydrocarbon receptor nuclear translocator (ARNT) and ARNT2. We found that AhR, ARNT, and ARNT2 mRNAs were widely distributed throughout the brain and brainstem. There was no neuroanatomic evidence that AhR is preferentially colocalized with ARNT or ARNT2. However, ARNT2, unlike ARNT expression, was relatively high in most regions. The most noteworthy regions in which we found AhR, ARNT, and ARNT2 mRNA were several hypothalamic and brainstem regions involved in the regulation of appetite and circadian rhythms, functions that are disrupted by dioxin exposure. These regions included the arcuate nucleus (Arc), ventromedial hypothalamus (VMH), paraventricular nucleus (PVN), suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN), nucleus of the solitary tract (NTS), and the dorsal and median raphe nuclei. This neuroanatomic information provides important clues as to the sites and mechanisms underlying the previously unexplained effects of dioxins in the central nervous system.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Aryl Hydrocarbon Receptor Nuclear Translocator
  • Basic Helix-Loop-Helix Transcription Factors
  • Brain Stem / chemistry*
  • Brain Stem / physiology
  • Cerebellum / chemistry
  • Cerebellum / physiology
  • DNA-Binding Proteins*
  • Hypothalamus / chemistry
  • Hypothalamus / physiology
  • In Situ Hybridization
  • Male
  • Phosphorus Radioisotopes
  • RNA, Messenger / analysis
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley / physiology*
  • Receptors, Aryl Hydrocarbon / genetics*
  • Telencephalon / chemistry
  • Telencephalon / physiology
  • Thalamus / chemistry
  • Thalamus / physiology
  • Transcription Factors / genetics*


  • ARNT protein, rat
  • Arnt2 protein, rat
  • Basic Helix-Loop-Helix Transcription Factors
  • DNA-Binding Proteins
  • Phosphorus Radioisotopes
  • RNA, Messenger
  • Receptors, Aryl Hydrocarbon
  • Transcription Factors
  • Aryl Hydrocarbon Receptor Nuclear Translocator