Double-label immunocytochemistry has been employed to elucidate the chemical nature of the afferent neuronal projections to the estrogen receptor-containing neurons located in the medial preoptic area of the rat brain. To ensure a clear separation of the immunolabelled afferent profiles from the estrogen receptors, the former were visualized first and the diaminobenzidine reaction product was silver-gold intensified. Using a monoclonal antibody raised against purified human estrogen receptors, we observed an intense nuclear immunoreactivity in Vibratome, semithin and ultrathin sections. Neuropeptide-Y, serotonin-, phenylethanolamine N-methyltransferase- and adrenocorticotrophin-immunoreactive axons and varicosities were observed in close apposition to the estrogen receptor-positive cells. At the ultrastructural level, neuropeptide-Y-immunoreactive boutons were seen in synaptic contact with cells showing estrogen receptor immunoreactivity in their nucleus. These results indicate that neurons located in the medial preoptic area, one of the principal sites for the control of female reproductive function, may be influenced by both estrogen and neurotransmitters/ neuropeptides via, respectively, nuclear receptors and synaptic contacts.
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