Appearance of enkephalin-immunoreactivity in rat adrenal medulla following treatment with nicotinic antagonists or reserpine

M. C. Bohn*, J. A. Kessler, L. Golightly, I. B. Black

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

51 Scopus citations


Various neuroendocrine factors known to be important in the regulation of adrenal catecholamine biosynthesis were investigated for possible effects on enkephalin-like immunoreactivity (Enk-IR) in the adrenal medulla of the rat. In normal rats, the adrenal chromaffin cells were not stained for either methionine (met-) or leucine (leu-) Enk-IR. Staining for Enk-IR appeared in many chromaffin cells following denervation of the adrenal or treatment of rats with the nicotinic receptor antagonists chlorisondamine or pempidine. These observations suggest that splanchnic nerve activity normally depresses the levels of enkephalin-like peptides in chromaffin cells through a trans-synaptic mechanism involving acetylcholine release and nicotinic receptor stimulation. Paradoxically, treatment with reserpine also increased Enk-IR in chromaffin cells. However, this increase did not appear to result from the well known effect of reserpine to increase presynaptic nerve firing and tyrosine hydroxylase (TOH) activity, since no increase in Enk-IR was observed following treatment with phenoxybenzamine or 6-hydroxydopamine, drugs which also increase TOH activity through trans-synaptic mechanisms. The reserpine effect also did not appear to be mediated by a stress-induced increase in glucocorticoid hormones since glucocorticoid therapy alone did not increase adrenal Enk-IR. It is suggested that the increase in adrenal Enk-IR following reserpine may result from a direct action of reserpine on chromaffin cells. In general, these studies demonstrate that the characterization of neuronal phenotypes in vivo by immunocytochemistry may depend on the physiological state of the animal at the time of sacrifice. These experiments also show that enkephalin-like peptides in the adrenal, like catecholamines, are subject to trans-synaptic regulation. However, the two systems appear to be differentially regulated and not all factors which regulate the amines influence the peptides, even though both are localized in the same cells.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)469-479
Number of pages11
JournalCell and Tissue Research
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jun 1983


  • Adrenal medulla
  • Enkephalins
  • Nicotinic receptors
  • Pituitary-adrenal axis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine
  • Histology
  • Cell Biology


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