Relaxin-3 in GABA projection neurons of nucleus incertus suggests widespread influence on forebrain circuits via G-protein-coupled receptor-135 in the rat

Neuroscience. 2007 Jan 5;144(1):165-90. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroscience.2006.08.072. Epub 2006 Oct 30.


Relaxin-3 (RLX3) is a newly identified member of the relaxin/insulin peptide family that is highly conserved across a range of species from fish to mammals and is highly expressed in rat, mouse and human brain. Extensive pharmacological studies have demonstrated that RLX3 is a high affinity, selective ligand for G-protein-coupled receptor-135 (GPCR135, now classified as relaxin family peptide-3 receptor; RXFP3). In ongoing studies to understand the physiological functions of RLX3, the distribution of RLX3-containing neuronal elements in rat brain was determined by immunohistochemistry, using an affinity-purified polyclonal antiserum raised against a conserved segment of the RLX3 C-peptide (AS-R3(85-101)). Consistent with the distribution of RLX3 mRNA, neurons containing RLX3-like immunoreactivity (LI) were observed in the pontine nucleus incertus and the majority of these cells, which are known to express corticotropin-releasing factor receptor-1, were shown to express glutamic acid decarboxylase-65-immunoreactivity, suggesting a GABA phenotype. Nerve fibers and terminals containing RLX3-LI were observed adjacent to cells in the nucleus incertus and in various forebrain regions known to receive afferents from the nucleus incertus, including cortex, septum, hippocampus, thalamus, hypothalamus and midbrain. Regions that contained highest densities of RLX3-positive fibers included the medial septum, lateral preoptic area, lateral hypothalamus/medial forebrain bundle and ventral hippocampus; and additional fibers were observed in olfactory bulb and olfactory and frontal/cingulate cortices, bed nucleus of the stria terminalis, dorsal endopiriform, intergeniculate, and supramammillary nuclei, and the periaqueductal gray and dorsal raphe. The RLX3-positive network overlapped the regional distribution of GPCR135 mRNA and specific binding sites for an [125I]-GPCR135-selective, chimeric peptide. These anatomical findings further support the proposition that RLX3 is the endogenous ligand for GPCR135 in rat brain and provide evidence for broad modulatory activity of RLX3 in behavioral activation relating to autonomic and neuroendocrine control of metabolism and reproduction and higher-order processes such as stress and cognition.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Animals
  • Antibody Specificity
  • Autoradiography
  • Binding Sites
  • Fluorescent Antibody Technique, Indirect
  • Humans
  • Image Processing, Computer-Assisted
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • In Situ Hybridization
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Nerve Net / cytology
  • Nerve Net / physiology*
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins / physiology*
  • Neurons / physiology*
  • Pons / cytology
  • Pons / physiology*
  • Prosencephalon / cytology
  • Prosencephalon / physiology*
  • RNA, Messenger / biosynthesis
  • Radioligand Assay
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Receptors, G-Protein-Coupled / genetics*
  • Receptors, G-Protein-Coupled / physiology
  • Relaxin / physiology*
  • gamma-Aminobutyric Acid / physiology*


  • G-protein-coupled receptor-135, rat
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins
  • RLN3 protein, rat
  • RNA, Messenger
  • Receptors, G-Protein-Coupled
  • gamma-Aminobutyric Acid
  • Relaxin