until further notice
SourceNeuroendocrinology, 85, 3, (2007), pp. 177-85
Article / Letter to editor
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Cellular Animal Physiology
Melanotrope cells of the amphibian pituitary pars intermedia produce alpha-melanophore-stimulating hormone (alpha-MSH), a peptide which causes skin darkening during adaptation to a dark background. The secretory activity of the melanotrope of the South African clawed toad Xenopus laevis is regulated by multiple factors, both classical neurotransmitters and neuropeptides from the brain. This review concerns the plasticity displayed in this intermediate lobe neuroendocrine interface during physiological adaptation to the environment. The plasticity includes dramatic morphological plasticity in both pre- and post-synaptic elements of the interface. Inhibitory neurons in the suprachiasmatic nucleus, designated suprachiasmatic melanotrope-inhibiting neurons (SMINs), possess more and larger synapses on the melanotrope cells in white than in black-background adapted animals; in the latter animals the melanotropes are larger and produce more proopiomelanocortin (POMC), the precursor of alpha-MSH. On a white background, pre-synaptic SMIN plasticity is reflected by a higher expression of inhibitory neuropeptide Y (NPY) and is closely associated with postsynaptic melanotrope plasticity, namely a higher expression of the NPY Y1 receptor. Interestingly, melanotrope cells in such animals also display higher expression of the receptors for thyrotropin-releasing hormone (TRH) and urocortin 1, two neuropeptides that stimulate alpha-MSH secretion. Possibly, in white-adapted animals melanotropes are sensitized to neuropeptide stimulation so that, when the toad moves to a black background, they can immediately initiate alpha-MSH secretion to achieve rapid adaptation to the new background condition. The melanotrope cell also produces brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), which is co-sequestered with alpha-MSH in secretory granules within the cells. The neurotrophin seems to control melanotrope cell plasticity in an autocrine way and we speculate that it may also control presynaptic SMIN plasticity.
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