Evidence from tissue culture studies suggests that glial cells are the principal source of prostaglandins in the brain. We have used immunohistochemistry, Western blot analysis, and enzyme activity assays to localize cyclooxygenase (COX), the enzyme responsible for the conversion of arachidonic acid to prostaglandins, in situ in the normal ovine brain. We observed very few immunoreactive glial cells. In contrast, an extensive distribution of COX‐like immunoreactive (ir) neuronal cell bodies and dendrites and a corresponding pattern of COX enzyme activity were observed. COXir neurons were most abundant in forebrain sites involved in complex, integrative functions and autonomic regulation such as the cerebral cortex, hippocampus, amygdala, bed nucleus of the stria terminalis, substantia innominata, dorsomedial nucleus of the hypothalamus, and tuberomammillary nucleus. Moderate populations were observed in other regions of the central nervous system implicated in sensory afferent processing, including the dorsal column nuclei, spinal trigeminal nucleus, and superior colliculus, and in structures involved in autonomic regulation, such as the nucleus of the solitary tract, parabrachial nucleus, and the periaqueductal gray matter. We did not observe COXir axons or terminal fields, however. Our results suggest that neurons may use prostaglandins as intracellular or perhaps paracrine, but probably not synaptic, mediators in the normal brain. © 1992 Wiley‐Liss, Inc.
- second messengers
- sensory afferent systems