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Corticotropin-releasing factor immunoreactivity is widely distributed within the central nervous system of the rat: an immunohistochemical study.

ABSTRACT The discovery of a 41-amino acid peptide with potent corticotropin-releasing factor properties has prompted a search for neurons that contain this substance and potentially utilize it in intercellular communication. The present study utilized immunohistochemical methods and an antiserum directed against a synthetic replica of ovine corticotropin-releasing factor. The rat hypothalamus was found to contain striking immunoreactive groups of neuronal perikarya within the paraventricular, periventricular, and anterior hypothalamic nuclei, some of which are likely to project to the external layer of the median eminence and thereby comprise a hypophysiotropic system. Certain other hypothalamic nuclei, as well as many other regions of the central nervous system, were found to contain corticotropin-releasing factor-immunoreactive neurons. Among the most prominent of these were neurons in the bed nucleus of stria terminalis, the central nucleus of the amygdala, the region of the dorsal raphe, locus ceruleus, the external cuneate nucleus, and the medullary reticular formation. Thus, corticotropin-releasing factor, like many other neurohormones and peptides, may participate in neuroendocrine regulation as well as play a role as a neurotransmitter-like substance in numerous extrahypothalamic circuits.

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