Pituitary Adenylate Cyclase Activating Polypeptide (PACAP) is a multi-functional neuropeptide that acts through activation of three common G-protein coupled receptors (VPAC1, VPAC2 and PAC1). In this study, we have investigated the gene expression profile of PAC1 isoforms (Hop1, Hip, Hip-Hop) and VPAC1, VPAC2 receptors in distinct brain regions during different stages of rat postnatal development. Using quantitative real time PCR approach we found that PAC1 isoforms were highly expressed in the cortex of newborns with marked decrease in expression during later stages of development. In contrast, mRNA levels of VPAC1, VPAC2 receptors were markedly lower in newborns in comparison to later developmental stages. Expression of PAC1 isoforms predominated in the hippocampus, while expression of VPAC1 was more prominent in the cortex and VPAC2 in the striatum and hippocampus. In addition we found that during early stages of postnatal development the expression of PAC1 receptor in the hippocampus was significantly higher in females than in males. No sex dependent differences in expression were observed for the VPAC1 and VPAC2 receptors. In summary, differential expression of PAC1, VPAC1 and VPAC2 receptors during postnatal development as well as gender dependent differences of PAC1 receptor expression in the hippocampus, will contribute to our understanding of the role of PACAP/VIP signaling system in normal brain development and function.
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