These studies describe the normal anatomical distribution of neurons containing the mRNA coding for neurotensin (proneurotensin/neuromedin N) in the rat forebrain and midbrain and examine how that distribution is altered by acute administration of the dopamine antagonist haloperidol. A novel fluorescence detection method was developed and employed with biotinylated oligonucleotides to permit the rapid, sensitive visualization of in situ hybridization. The hybridization was temperature-sensitive, eliminated by ribonuclease, and co-localized in neurotensin-immunoreactive perikarya in the midbrain. In the forebrain of control rats, proneurotensin mRNA-containing neurons were found in the dorsomedial and ventrolateral caudate/putamen, in the nucleus accumbens, in the ventral striatum including the olfactory tubercles, and in the septal nuclei. Haloperidol induced significant increases in the frequencies and distributions of hybridization-positive neurons in the striatum and septal nuclei. In the midbrain, the highest frequency of hybridization-positive neurons occurred in the substantia nigra and the superior colliculus. Prominent populations were also present in the dorsal and ventral periaqueductal gray, the oculomotor region, and the medial longitudinal fasciculus. Less prominent were populations of neurons in the dorsomedial deep mesencephalic nuclei and the ventral tegmental area. Haloperidol induced only modest increases in the frequency of pro-neurotensin mRNA-containing neurons in the ventral tegmental area, and had no effects elsewhere in the midbrain. These results show that the fluorescent detection techniques used in this analysis provide a very rapid, reliable method for localizing hybridized mRNA in the rat brain. This study also suggests that a subpopulation of striatal neurons begin to express proneurotensin mRNA in response to haloperidol treatment. This effect of haloperidol on striatal neurons contrasts with results from additional studies of enkephalin mRNA in the striatum, suggesting that the mechanisms of haloperidol stimulation may differ between neurotensin and enkephalin-containing neurons.
- Neuromedin N