The novel RFamide peptide 26RFa, the endogenous ligand of the orphan receptor GPR103, affects food intake, locomotion, and activity of the gonadotropic axis. However, little is known regarding the localization of 26RFa receptors. The present report provides the first detailed mapping of 26RFa binding sites and GPR103 mRNA in the rat central nervous system (CNS). 26RFa binding sites were widely distributed in the brain and spinal cord, whereas the expression of GPR103 mRNA was more discrete, notably in the midbrain, the pons, and the medulla oblongata, suggesting that 26RFa can bind to a receptor(s) other than GPR103. Competition experiments confirmed that 26RFa interacts with an RFamide peptide receptor distinct from GPR103 that may be NPFF2. High densities of 26RFa binding sites were observed in olfactory, hypothalamic, and brainstem nuclei involved in the control of feeding behavior, including the piriform cortex, the ventromedial and dorsomedial hypothalamic nuclei, the paraventricular nucleus, the arcuate nucleus, the lateral hypothalamic area, and the nucleus of the solitary tract. The preoptic and anterior hypothalamic areas were also enriched with 26RFa recognition sites, supporting a physiological role of the neuropeptide in the regulation of the gonadotropic axis. A high density of 26RFa binding sites was detected in regions of the CNS involved in the processing of pain, such as the dorsal horn of the spinal cord and the parafascicular thalamic nucleus. The wide distribution of 26RFa binding sites suggests that 26RFa has multiple functions in the CNS that are mediated by at least two distinct receptors.
(c) 2007 Wiley-Liss, Inc.