Oviposition in birds is conducted by vigorous contractions of the uterine oviduct. We recently isolated an oviposition-inducing peptide that was identified as avian galanin from mature quail oviducts. This peptide was localized in neuronal fibers terminating in muscle layers in the uterine oviduct and evoked vigorous uterine contractions through binding to receptors located in the uterus. However, no cell bodies that express avian galanin were detected in the uterus or other oviduct regions. To understand the control mechanism of avian oviposition by galanin, we identified the neurons that synthesize galanin and project to the uterus with the combination of retrograde labeling with neurobiotin and immunocytochemistry for galanin in mature Japanese quails. Retrograde labeling with neurobiotin from the uterus revealed that lumbosacral sympathetic ganglionic neurons located in the uterine side projected their axons to the uterine muscle layer. Abundant elementary granules were observed in somata of the retrogradely labeled sympathetic ganglionic neurons, suggesting that labeled neurons may function as a neurosecretory cell. Immunocytochemical analysis with the antiserum against avian galanin showed an intense immunoreaction restricted to somata of the retrograde-labeled ganglionic neurons. Preabsorbing the antiserum with avian galanin resulted in a complete absence of the immunoreaction. Competitive enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay using antigalanin serum confirmed that avian galanin existed in the sympathetic ganglionic neurons. Expression of the avian galanin messenger RNA in the neurons was further verified by Northern blot analysis. In addition, both avian galanin and its messenger RNA in the neurons were highly expressed in mature birds, unlike in immature birds. These results suggest that lumbosacral sympathetic ganglionic neurons innervating the uterine muscle produce avian galanin in mature birds. Because this peptide acts directly on the uterus to evoke oviposition through a mechanism of the induction of vigorous uterine contraction, galaninergic innervation of the uterine oviduct may be essential for avian oviposition.
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