The major effector organ for thermogenesis during inflammation or experimental pyrogen-induced fever in rodents is the brown adipose tissue (BAT). Prostaglandin E2 (PGE2) microinjection into the medial preoptic area (POA) of rats leads to hyperthermia through an increase in BAT thermogenesis and induces pyrogenic signal transmission towards the raphe pallidus nucleus (RPa), a brainstem nucleus known to contain sympathetic premotor neurons for BAT control. The medial POA has a high expression of prostaglandin E receptor subtype EPS (EP3R) on POA neurons, suggesting that these EP3R are main central targets of PGE2 to mediate BAT thermogenesis. To reveal central command neurons that contain EP3R and polysynaptically project to the BAT, we combined EP3R immunohistochemistry with the detection of transneuronally labelled neurons that were infected after injection of pseudorabies virus into the BAT. Neurons double-labelled with EP3R and viral surface antigens were particularly numerous in two brain regions, the medial POA and the RPa. Of all medial POA neurons that became virally infected 71 h after BAT inoculation, about 40% expressed the EP3R. This subpopulation of POA neurons is the origin of a complete neuronal chain that connects potential PGE2-sensitive POA neurons with the BAT. As for the efferent pathway of pyrogenic signal transmission, we hypothesize that neurons of this subpopulation of EP3R expressing POA neurons convey their pyrogenic signals towards the BAT via the RPa. We additionally observed that two-thirds of those RPa neurons that polysynaptically project to the interscapular BAT also expressed the EP3R, suggesting that RPa neurons themselves might possess prostaglandin sensitivity that is able to modulate BAT thermogenesis under febrile conditions.
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