Dystrophin (Dp) is a multidomain protein that links the actin cytoskeleton to the extracellular matrix through the dystrophin associated proteins complex (DAPC). Dp of 71 kDa (Dp71), corresponding to the COOH-terminal domain of dystrophin, and α1-syntrophin (α1Syn) as the principal component of the DAPC, are strongly expressed in the brain. To clarify their involvement in the central control of osmotic homeostasis, we investigated the effect of 14 days of salt loading (with drinking water containing 2% NaCl) and then reversibly to 30 days of normal hydration (with drinking water without salt), first on the expression by western-blotting and the distribution by immunochemistry of Dp71 and α1Syn in the SON of the rat and, second, on the level of some physiological parameters, as the plasma osmolality, natremia and hematocrit. Dp71 is the most abundant form of dystrophin revealed in the supraoptic nucleu (SON) of control rat. Dp71 was localized in magnocellular neurons (MCNs) and astrocytes, when α1Syn was observed essentially in astrocytes end feet. After 14 days of salt-loading, Dp71 and α1Syn signals decreased and a dual signal for these two proteins was revealed in the astrocytes processes SON surrounding blood capillaries. In addition, salt loading leads to an increase in plasma osmolality, natremia and hematocrit. Reversibly, after 30 days of normal hydration, the intensity of the signal for the two proteins, Dp71 and α1Syn, increased and approached that of control. Furtheremore, the levels of the physiological parameters decreased and approximated those of control. This suggests that Dp71 and α1Syn may be involved in the functional activity of the SON. Their localization in astrocyte end feet emphasizes their importance in neuronal-vascular-astrocyte interactions for the central detection of osmolality. In the SON, Dp71 and α1Syn may be involved in osmosensitivity.
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