The main prerequisite for organism’s viability is the maintenance of the internal environment despite changes in the external environment, which is provided by the neuroendocrine control system. The key unit in this system is hypothalamus exerting endocrine effects on certain peripheral organs and anterior pituitary. Physiologically active substances of neuronal origin enter blood vessels in the neurohemal parts of hypothalamus where no blood-brain barrier exists. In other parts of the adult brain, the arrival of physiologically active substances is blocked by the blood-brain barrier. According to the generally accepted concept, the neuroendocrine system formation in ontogeny starts with the maturation of peripheral endocrine glands, which initially function autonomously and then are controlled by the anterior pituitary. The brain is engaged in neuroendocrine control after its maturation completes, which results in a closed control system typical of adult mammals. Since neurons start to secrete physiologically active substances soon after their formation and long before interneuronal connections are formed, these cells are thought to have an effect on brain development as inducers. Considering that there is no blood-brain barrier during this period, we proposed the hypothesis that the developing brain functions as a multipotent endocrine organ. This means that tens of physiologically active substances arrive from the brain to the systemic circulation and have an endocrine effect on the whole body development. Dopamine, serotonin, and gonadotropin-releasing hormone were selected as marker physiologically active substances of cerebral origin to test this hypothesis. In adult animals, they act as neurotransmitters or neuromodulators transmitting information from neuron to neuron as well as neurohormones arriving from the hypothalamus with portal blood to the anterior pituitary. Perinatal rats—before the blood-brain barrier is formed—proved to have equally high concentration of dopamine, serotonin, and gonadotropin-releasing hormone in the systemic circulation as in the adult portal system. After the brain-blood barrier is formed, the blood concentration of dopamine and gonadotropin-releasing hormone drops to zero, which indirectly confirms their cerebral origin. Moreover, the decrease in the blood concentration of dopamine, serotonin, and gonadotropin-releasing hormone before the brain-blood barrier formation after the microsurgical disruption of neurons that synthesize them or inhibition of dopamine and serotonin synthesis in the brain directly confirm their cerebral origin. Before the blood-brain barrier formation, dopamine, serotonin, gonadotropin-releasing hormone, and likely many other physiologically active substances of cerebral origin can have endocrine effects on peripheral target organs—anterior pituitary, gonads, kidney, heart, blood vessels, and the proper brain. Although the period of brain functioning as an endocrine organ is not long, it is crucial for the body development since physiologically active substances exert irreversible effects on the targets as morphogenetic factors during this period. Thus, the developing brain from the neuron formation to the establishment of the blood-brain barrier functions as a multipotent endocrine organ participating in endocrine control of the whole body development.
Russian Journal of Developmental Biology – Springer Journals
Published: Feb 14, 2009
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