OBJECTIVE AND STUDY DESIGN. Urocortin is a recently identified neuropeptide of the corticotrophinreleasing factor (CRF) family in the mammalian brain and has been demonstrated to stimulate ACTH secretion from pituitary cells, but its expression in human brain tissue including the hypothalamus has not been examined. In this study, we first examined urocortin expression in the hypothalamus (20 cases) and pituitary stalks (17 cases) of human brain obtained from autopsy using immunohistochemistry and mRNA in situ hybridization. RESULTS. Neither urocortin immunoreactivity nor mRNA hybridization signals were detected in the hypothalami and pituitary stalks while CRF immunoreactivity was detected in the paraventricular nuclei of the hypothalami in 10/20 cases and in nerve fibres of the stalks in 17/17 cases. These results indicate that urocortin does not act on the hypothalamo- pituitary-adrenal axis, at least not in the same manner as CRF in humans. We then examined urocortin expression in various portions of the brain in 7 cases. Both urocortin immunoreactivity and mRNA hybridization were detected in Purkinje cells of the cerebellum and anterior horn cells of the spinal cord in specimens examined. Urocortin expression was, however, variably seen in superior olivary nuclei (two out of six cases examined) and in the Edingar-Westphal nuclei (one out of three cases examined). CONCLUSIONS. The distribution of urocortin in the human central nervous system suggests that urocortin may work as a neurotransmitter like other neuropeptides in the human.
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