Secretin: hypothalamic distribution and hypothesized neuroregulatory role in autism

Cell Mol Neurobiol. 2004 Apr;24(2):219-41. doi: 10.1023/b:cemn.0000018618.59015.a2.


1. This study aims (1) to determine whether secretin is synthesized centrally, specifically by the HPA axis and (2) to discuss, on the basis of the findings in this and previous studies, secretin's possible neuroregulatory role in autism. 2. An immunocytochemical technique with single-cell resolution was performed in 12 age/weight-matched male rats pretreated with stereotaxic microinjection of colchicine (0.6 microg/kg) or vehicle into the lateral ventricle. Following 2-day survival, rats were anesthetized and perfused for immunocytochemistry. Brain segments were blocked and alternate frozen 30-microm sections incubated in rabbit antibodies against secretin, vasoactive intestinal peptide, glucagon, or pituitary-adenylate-cyclase-activating peptide. Adjacent sections were processed for Nissl stain. Preadsorption studies were performed with members of the secretin peptide family to demonstrate primary antibody specificity. 3. Specificity of secretin immunoreactivity (ir) was verified by clear-cut preadsorption control data and relatively high concentrations and distinct topographic localization of secretin ir to paraventricular/supraoptic and intercalated hypothalamic nuclei. Secretin levels were upregulated by colchicine, an exemplar of homeostatic stressors, as compared with low constitutive expression in untreated rats. 4. This study provides the first direct immunocytochemical demonstration of secretinergic immunoreactivity in the forebrain and offers evidence that the hypothalamus, like the gut, is capable of synthesizing secretin. Secretin's dual expression by gut and brain secretin cells, as well as its overlapping central distribution with other stress-adaptation neurohormones, especially oxytocin, indicates that it is stress-sensitive. A neuroregulatory relationship between the peripheral and central stress response systems is suggested, as is a dual role for secretin in conditioning both of those stress-adaptation systems. Colchicine-induced upregulation of secretin indicates that secretin may be synthesized on demand in response to stress, a possible mechanism of action that may underlie secretin's role in autism.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Autistic Disorder / metabolism*
  • Autistic Disorder / physiopathology
  • Colchicine
  • Glucagon / metabolism
  • Hypothalamo-Hypophyseal System / metabolism*
  • Hypothalamo-Hypophyseal System / physiopathology
  • Hypothalamus / metabolism*
  • Hypothalamus / physiopathology
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Injections, Intraventricular
  • Male
  • Neurons / cytology
  • Neurons / metabolism
  • Neuropeptides / metabolism
  • Paraventricular Hypothalamic Nucleus / metabolism
  • Paraventricular Hypothalamic Nucleus / physiopathology
  • Pituitary Adenylate Cyclase-Activating Polypeptide
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Secretin / biosynthesis*
  • Secretin / metabolism
  • Stress, Physiological / chemically induced
  • Stress, Physiological / metabolism*
  • Stress, Physiological / physiopathology
  • Supraoptic Nucleus / metabolism
  • Supraoptic Nucleus / physiopathology
  • Up-Regulation / drug effects
  • Up-Regulation / physiology
  • Vasoactive Intestinal Peptide / metabolism


  • Adcyap1 protein, rat
  • Neuropeptides
  • Pituitary Adenylate Cyclase-Activating Polypeptide
  • Secretin
  • Vasoactive Intestinal Peptide
  • Glucagon
  • Colchicine