Background: Peripherin, a type III neuronal intermediate filament, is widely expressed in neurons of the peripheral nervous system and in selected central nervous system hindbrain areas with projections towards peripheral structures, such as cranial nerves and spinal cord neurons. Peripherin appears to play a role in neurite elongation during development and axonal regeneration, but its exact function is not known. We noticed high peripherin expression in the posterior hypothalamus of mice, and decided to investigate further the exact location of expression and function of peripherin in the mouse posterior hypothalamus.
Results: In situ hybridization indicated expression of peripherin in neurons with a distribution reminiscent of the histaminergic neurons, with little signal in any other part of the forebrain. Immunocytochemical staining for histidine decarboxylase and peripherin revealed extensive colocalization, showing that peripherin is produced by histaminergic neurons in all parts of the tuberomammillary nucleus. We next used histamine immunostaining in peripherin knockout, overexpressing and wild type mice to study if altered peripherin expression affects these neurons, but could not detect any visible difference in the appearance of these neurons or their axons. Peripherin knockout mice and heterozygotic littermates were used for measurement of locomotor activity, feeding, drinking, and energy expenditure. Both genotypes displayed diurnal rhythms with all the parameters higher during the dark period. The respiratory quotient, an indicator of the type of substrate being utilized, also exhibited a significant diurnal rhythm in both genotypes. The diurnal patterns and the average values of all the recorded parameters for 24 h, daytime and night time were not significantly different between the genotypes, however.
Conclusion: In conclusion, we have shown that peripherin is expressed in the tuberomammillary neurons of the mouse hypothalamus. Monitoring of locomotor activity, feeding, drinking, and energy expenditure in mice either lacking or overexpressing peripherin did not reveal any difference, so the significance of peripherin in these neurons remains to be determined. The complete overlap between histidine decarboxylase and peripherin, both the protein and its mRNA, renders peripherin a useful new marker for histaminergic neurons in the hypothalamus.