Effect of hypothyroidism on vasoactive intestinal polypeptide-immunoreactive neurons in forebrain-neurohypophysial nuclei of the rat brain

Roberto Toni, Salvatore Mosca, Franco Ruggeri, Aurelio Valmori, Guido Orlandi, Giorgio Toni, Ronald M. Lechan, Paolo Vezzadini

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


We have recently reported that hypothyroidism increases immunoreactive (IR)-vasoactive intestinal polypeptide (VIP) and VIP and mRNA content in both parvocellular and magnocellular neurons of the rat, hypothalamic paraventricular nucleus (PVN). As VIP can stimulate vasopressin (AVP) secretion, we conducted an anatomical investigation to determine whether VIP-containing neurons in other regions of the brain that are involved with homeostatic mechanisms of water and salt conservation are also affected by hypothyroidism. The distribution and intensity of VIP immunostaining in neurons and fibers of the magnocellular-neurohypophysial system, including the hypothalamic PVN, supraoptic nucleus (SON) and accessory magnocellular cell groups, circumventricular subfornical organ (SFO), preoptic and anterior hypothalamus, midline thalamus, subthalamic zona incerta and posterior septal nuclei were studied using a highly sensitive immunocytochemical technique and unbiased neuronal counting methods, based on the optical dissector principle. Hypothyroidism increased the intensity of VIP immunostaining and/or the number/section, percentage and numerical density of IR-VIP neurons in the PVN, SON, nucleus circularis, periventricular preoptic nucleus of the hypothalamus and SFO. In addition, IR-VIP perikarya and/or fibers in the hypothalamic medial preoptic area and anterior periventricular nucleus, nucleus reuniens of the thalamus and dorsal fornix-triangular septal nucleus complex were also apparent in the hypothyroid animals while no immunostaining was seen in these areas in control animals. No quantitative and/or qualitative modifications in IR-VIP neurons and fibers were noted in the anterior hypothalamic area, suprachiasmatic nucleus, thalamic paraventricular nucles and subthalamic zona incerta between hypothyroid and control animals. These findings suggest an inverse relationship between thyroid hormone and VIP content and/or distribution of IR-VIP neurons in specific forebrain regions involved in the control of AVP release, extracellular fluid volume, thirst, blood pressure and anterior pituitary secretion. This raises the possibility that changes in fluid homeostasis and cardiovascular function occurring in hypothyroidism may be mediated, at least in part, by VIP-producing neurons in diverse regions of the brain.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)101-115
Number of pages15
JournalBrain Research
Issue number1-2
Publication statusPublished - Jun 5 1995


  • Circumventricular region
  • Forebrain
  • Hypothalamus
  • Hypothyroidism
  • Immunocytochemistry
  • Vasoactive intestinal polypeptide

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Developmental Biology
  • Molecular Biology
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Neuroscience(all)


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