Opioid gene expression in the developing and adult rat heart

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Opioid peptides are known to play a role in the function and growth of the mammalian heart. Although some information about gene expression of opioids in the heart is available, there is no data on the cellular location of opioid gene expression during development or in the adult. Using in situ hybridization and rat heart ranging from embryonic day 14 (E14) to adulthood, we have evaluated the distribution of gene expression for proenkephalin, proopiomelanocortin, and prodynorphin. With respect to preproenkephalin mRNA (PPE mRNA), message in the ventricle was abundant from E14 (the first time point examined) until shortly after birth, with a marked reduction noted on postnatal days 5, 10, and 21. Adults displayed considerable message, though less than in preparations of embryonic and neonatal heart. PPE mRNA was detected in epicardial, myocardial, and endocardial cells, as well as the walls of blood vessels, capillaries, and fibroblasts. Preproopiomelanocortin (POMC) mRNA was only found in adults, and was localized to the myocardium. Message for preprodynorphin could not be observed in the ventricles of developing or adult rats. These results are the first to define the temporal and spatial ontogeny of opioid gene expression with regard to the emergence of cardiac architecture. The data suggest that gene expression for proenkephalin is especially prevalent in embryonic and neonatal rats and may be related to the modulatory activity of the opioid growth factor, [Met5]- enkephalin, on cell proliferation and differentiation. The role of PPE and POMC mRNA in adult rat heart requires elucidation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)153-163
Number of pages11
JournalDevelopmental Dynamics
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1998

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Developmental Biology


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