Ardrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH), β-endorphin and the melanotropins (MSHs) are all derived from a single large precursor molecule, proopiomelanocortin (POMC)1-5 by individual processing through a series of co- and post-translational modifications. Although the primary site of synthesis is in the pituitary, POMC-derived peptides have been identified in various tissues, notably the brain (see refs 6, 7 for review). A major question concerning brain POMC is whether it is synthesized within the central nervous system (CNS) itself or whether it is taken up from plasma flowing in a retrograde fashion from the pituitary. POMC peptides have been detected immunohistochemically and biochemically in the medial basal hypothalamus, the amygdala and throughout the brain stem. POMC peptide-containing cell bodies have been identified only in two cell groups, however, principally in the periarcuate region of the hypothalamus and to a lesser extent in the nucleus of the tractus solitarius8-10. These and other 11,12observations have suggested that POMC peptides are synthesized locally in the medial basal hypothalamus and reach other regions of the CNS by axonal transport. Civelli et al. identified POMC mRNAs in nucleic acid extracts of rat and bovine hypothalami by solution hybridization as well as Northern gel blot analysis12, but because of the close proximity of the hypothalamus to the pituitary and the extremely low amounts of POMC mRNA being measured in the hypothalamus, the possibility of tissue contamination during dissection could not be ruled out. We report here the anatomical co-localization of POMC-related peptides and POMC-specific mRNAs to a single major cell group in the medial basal hypothalamus. The presence of POMC-specific mRNA in a POMC peptide-containing cell in the brain is strong support for POMC biosynthesis within brain tissue.
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