Introduction: Food intake varies during the ovarian hormone/estrous cycle in humans and rodents, an effect mediated mainly by estradiol. A potential mediator of the central anorectic effects of estradiol is the neuropeptide relaxin-3 (RLN3) synthetized in the nucleus incertus (NI) and acting via the relaxin family peptide-3 receptor (RXFP3). Methods: We investigated the relationship between RLN3/RXFP3 signaling and feeding behavior across the female rat estrous cycle. We used in situ hybridization to investigate expression patterns of Rln3 mRNA in NI and Rxfp3 mRNA in the hypothalamic paraventricular nucleus (PVN), lateral hypothalamic area (LHA), medial preoptic area (MPA), and bed nucleus of the stria terminalis (BNST), across the estrous cycle. We identified expression of estrogen receptors (ERs) in the NI using droplet digital PCR and assessed the electrophysiological responsiveness of NI neurons to estradiol in brain slices. Results: Rln3 mRNA reached the lowest levels in the NI pars compacta during proestrus. Rxfp3 mRNA levels varied across the estrous cycle in a region-specific manner, with changes observed in the perifornical LHA, magnocellular PVN, dorsal BNST, and MPA, but not in the parvocellular PVN or lateral LHA. G protein-coupled estrogen receptor 1 (Gper1) mRNA was the most abundant ER transcript in the NI. Estradiol inhibited 33% of type 1 NI neurons, including RLN3-positive cells. Conclusion: These findings demonstrate that the RLN3/RXFP3 system is modulated by the estrous cycle, and although further studies are required to better elucidate the cellular and molecular mechanisms of estradiol signaling, current results implicate the involvement of the RLN3/RXFP3 system in food intake fluctuations observed across the estrous cycle in female rats.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
- Endocrine and Autonomic Systems
- Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience