Recent selective stimulation and ablation of galanin neurons in the preoptic area of the hypothalamus established their critical role in control of maternal behaviors. Here, we identified a group of galanin neurons in the anterior commissural nucleus (ACN), and a distinct group in the medial preoptic area (MPA). Galanin neurons in ACN but not the MPA co-expressed oxytocin. We used immunodetection of phosphorylated STAT5 (pSTAT5), involved in prolactin receptor signal transduction, to evaluate the effects of suckling-induced prolactin release and found that 76 % of galanin cells in ACN, but only 12 % in MPA were prolactin responsive. Nerve terminals containing tuberoinfundibular peptide 39 (TIP39), a neuropeptide that mediates effects of suckling on maternal motivation, were abundant around galanin neurons in both preoptic regions. In the ACN and MPA, 89 and 82 % of galanin neurons received close somatic appositions, with an average of 2.9 and 2.6 per cell, respectively. We observed perisomatic innervation of galanin neurons using correlated light and electron microscopy. The connection was excitatory based on the glutamate content of TIP39 terminals demonstrated by post-embedding immunogold electron microscopy. Injection of the anterograde tracer biotinylated dextran amine into the TIP39-expressing posterior intralaminar complex of the thalamus (PIL) demonstrated that preoptic TIP39 fibers originate in the PIL, which is activated by suckling. Thus, galanin neurons in the preoptic area of mother rats are innervated by an excitatory neuronal pathway that conveys suckling-related information. In turn, they can be topographically and neurochemically divided into two distinct cell groups, of which only one is affected by prolactin.
- Maternal behavior
- Preoptic area of hypothalamus
- Rat dams
ASJC Scopus subject areas