Survival of rat MCH (melanin-concentrating hormone) neurons in hypothalamus slice culture: histological, pharmacological and molecular studies
Suprachiasmatic nuclei, derived from neonate rats, were maintained for several weeks in stationary organotypic culture. Hypothalamic slice explants, supported by Millicell filters and incubated in Petri dishes containing serum-based medium, flattened appreciably, yet preserved the organization of the suprachiasmatic nucleus and the surrounding hypothalamic tissue. After two to three weeks, cultures were fixed, and three neuronal sub-populations were identified as vasopressinergic, vasoactive intestinal peptide-containing, or GABA-containing. The GABAergic component of the cultured suprachiasmatic nucleus was particularly profuse, projecting extensively into the hypothalamic slice. Unilateral ablation of the nucleus in the explant dramatically reduced ipsilateral GABA-immunoreactivity in the slice. Explants in which an incision separated the bilateral suprachiasmatic nucleus from the paraventricular nucleus, deprived the latter of its fine-caliber GABA-immunoreactive input. Extra- or intra-cellular electrophysiological recordings from the suprachiasmatic nucleus were obtained in 51 of 58 cultures. The electrical properties of the long-term cultured suprachiasmatic nucleus were similar to those recorded in acute slices from adult rats. In six cultures recordings were extended for up to 10-24 h. Within long-term stationary organotypic cultures of the suprachiasmatic nucleus, sub-populations of neurons, intrinsic to the nucleus in vivo, were identified immunocytochemically. Lesion studies supported the observation that the main source of the GABAergic innervation within the entire hypothalamic slice explant appeared to be the suprachiasmatic nucleus. Electrophysiological studies confirmed the viability of the long-term cultured nucleus and revealed changes in spontaneous electrical activity that may indicate circadian fluctuation.