Localization of relaxin-3 in brain of Macaca fascicularis: identification of a nucleus incertus in primate

J Comp Neurol. 2009 Dec 20;517(6):856-72. doi: 10.1002/cne.22197.


Relaxin-3 (RLN3) is a highly conserved, ancestral member of the insulin/relaxin peptide family. RLN3 mRNA is highly expressed in rat, mouse, and human brain and molecular genetic and pharmacological studies suggest that RLN3 is the cognate ligand for the relaxin family peptide-3 receptor (RXFP3). The distribution of RLN3/RXFP3 networks has been determined in rat and mouse brain, but not in higher species. In this study we describe the distribution of RLN3 neurons in the brain of macaque (Macaca fascicularis) using in situ hybridization histochemistry and immunohistochemistry. RLN3 mRNA and high levels of RLN3-like immunoreactivity (-LI) were observed in neurons within a ventromedial region of the central gray of the pons and medulla that appears to represent the primate analog of the nucleus incertus (NI) described in lower species. Nerve fibers and terminals containing RLN3-LI were observed throughout brain regions identical to those known to receive afferents from the NI in the rat, including the septum, hippocampus, entorhinal cortex, lateral, dorsomedial and ventromedial hypothalamus, supramammillary and interpeduncular nuclei, anterodorsal, paraventricular and reuniens thalamic nuclei, lateral habenula, central gray, and dorsal raphe, solitary tract, and ambiguus nuclei. Experimental studies in the rat strongly implicate a role of this neuropeptide-receptor system in arousal, feeding, and metabolism, learning and memory, and central responses to psychological stressors. These new anatomical findings support the proposition that the RLN3 system is similarly involved in the integration and modulation of behavioral activation and arousal and responses to stress in nonhuman primates and humans.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain / anatomy & histology*
  • Brain / metabolism*
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • In Situ Hybridization
  • Macaca fascicularis / anatomy & histology*
  • Macaca fascicularis / metabolism*
  • Male
  • Neurons / metabolism
  • RNA, Messenger / metabolism
  • Relaxin / metabolism*


  • RNA, Messenger
  • Relaxin