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Organization of the histaminergic system in adult zebrafish (Danio rerio) brain: Neuron number, location, and cotransmitters



Histamine is an essential factor in the ascending arousal system (AAS) during motivated behaviors. Histamine and hypocretin/orexin (hcrt) are proposed to be responsible for different aspects of arousal and wakefulness, histamine mainly for cognitive and motivated behaviors. In this study we visualized the entire histaminergic neuron population in adult male and female zebrafish brain and quantified the histaminergic neuron numbers. There were 40–45 histaminergic neurons in both male and female zebrafish brain. Further, we identified cotransmitters of histaminergic neurons in the ventrocaudal hypothalamus, i.e., around the posterior recess (PR) in adult zebrafish. Galanin, γ-aminobutyric acid (GABA), and thyrotropin-releasing hormone (TRH) were colocalized with histamine in some but not all neurons, a result that was verified by intracerebroventricular injections of colchicine into adult zebrafish. Fibers immunoreactive (ir) for galanin, GABA, TRH, or methionine-enkephalin (mENK) were dense in the ventrocaudal hypothalamus around the histaminergic neurons. In histamine-ir fibers TRH and galanin immunoreactivities were also detected in the ventral telencephalon. All these neurotransmitters are involved in maintaining the equilibrium of the sleep–wake state. Our results are in accordance with results from rats, further supporting the use of zebrafish as a tool to study molecular mechanisms underlying complex behaviors. J. Comp. Neurol. 520:3827–3845, 2012. © 2012 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.