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Immunohistochemical Demonstration of Opioids and Tachykinins in Human Pineal Gland


Pansiri Phansuwan-Pujito, PhD*,
Piyarat Govitrapong, PhD**, Morten Møller, MD, PhD***

* Department of Anatomy, Faculty of Medicine, Srinakharinwirot University
** Neuro-Behavioural Biology Center, Institute of Science and
Technology for Research and Development, Mahidol University
** Center for Neuroscience and Department of Pharmacology, Faculty of Science, Mahidol University
***Institute of Medical Anatomy, the Panum Institute, University, Denmark


The human pineal gland secretes melatonin in a circadian rhythm manner. The rhythm of melatonin synthesis is primarily controlled by the noradrenergic sympathetic system originating from the superior cervical ganglion. Several neurotranmitters/neuropeptides have been reported to influence the production of melatonin in the pineal glands of many mammalian species. Both opioid peptide, a pain suppressing peptide and substance P, a pain inducing peptide were also reported to be present in the pineal gland of several kinds of mammals. However, few studies have been demonstrated in humans. Therefore, in the present study, the immunohistochemical investigation was performed in the human pineal gland by using antisera raised against leu-enkephalin, met-enkephalin and beta-endorphin to demonstrate an opioidergic system; and antisera raised against substance P, neurokinin A, and neurokinin B to study a tachykinin system. A high amount of leu- and met-enkephalin immunoreactivities were observed in intrapineal neuronal-like cells while very few were presented in nerve fibers. This result suggests a local regulatory function or paracrine opioidergic control in human pineal. Substance P- and neurokinin A-immunoreactivities, but not neurokinin B were observed in the human pineal gland. They are located mostly in nerve fibers but a few in neuronal-like cells. The tachykininergic control of human pineal is mainly from the nerve fibers which have their perikaryal origin outside the gland. Some of the nerve fibers might originate from neurons in the brain and/or from a peripheral ganglion.

Keyword : Opioid peptides, Tachykinins, Human pineal, Immunohistochemistry

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