BACKGROUND: The human hypothalamus contains the neuropeptide FF (NPFF) neurochemical network. Animal experiments demonstrated that NPFF is implicated in the central cardiovascular regulation. We therefore studied expression of this peptide in the hypothalamus of individuals who suffered from essential hypertension (n = 8) and died suddenly due to acute myocardial infarction (AMI), and compared to that of healthy individuals (controls) (n = 6) who died abruptly due to mechanical trauma of the chest.
METHODS: The frozen right part of the hypothalamus was cut coronally into serial sections of 20 μm thickness, and each tenth section was stained immunohistochemically using antibody against NPFF. The central section through each hypothalamic nucleus was characterized by the highest intensity of NPFF immunostaining and thus was chosen for quantitative densitometry.
RESULTS: In hypertensive patients, the area occupied by NPFF immunostained neuronal elements in the central sections through the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCh), paraventricular hypothalamic nucleus (Pa), bed nucleus of the stria terminalis (BST), perinuclear zone (PNZ) of the supraoptic nucleus (SON), dorso- (DMH), ventromedial (VMH) nuclei, and perifornical nucleus (PeF) was dramatically decreased compared to controls, ranging about six times less in the VMH to 15 times less in the central part of the BST (BSTC). The NPFF innervation of both nonstained neuronal profiles and microvasculature was extremely poor in hypertensive patients compared to control.
CONCLUSIONS: The decreased NPFF expression in the hypothalamus of hypertensive patients might be a cause of impairment of its interaction with other neurochemical systems, and thereby might be involved in the pathogenesis of the disease.