The paraventricular nucleus of the thalamus (PVT) is a midline thalamic nucleus with heavy projections to the nucleus accumbens and other limbic regions. Previous studies have shown that the PVT contains fibers immunoreactive for cocaine- and amphetamine-related transcript (CART). The purpose of the present study was to determine the location of CART neurons innervating the PVT of the rat by using retrograde tracing with cholera toxin B (CTb) combined with immunofluorescence for CTb and CART (amino acid sequence 55-102). Immunohistochemical analysis of CART in the dorsal thalamus showed that the PVT is densely innervated by CART fibers whereas adjacent midline and intralaminar thalamic nuclei are unlabeled. Injections of CTb in the dorsal midline thalamus retrogradely labeled neurons in several areas of the hypothalamus and brainstem which also contained CART neurons. The largest number of double-labeled neurons (CTb/CART) was found in the arcuate nucleus of the hypothalamus. CTb/CART neurons were also found in the lateral hypothalamus, zona incerta, and periventricular hypothalamus. These results indicate that the arcuate nucleus is a major source of CART fibers in the PVT. CART neurons in the arcuate nucleus monitor circulating hormonal signals and may regulate food intake and hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) activity. Consequently, CART neurons in the arcuate nucleus may transmit signals to the PVT which in turn may influence limbic regions involved in regulating food intake and the HPA.
Copyright 2006 Wiley-Liss, Inc.