• electron microscopy;
  • galanin;
  • hypothalamus;
  • intracellular targeting;
  • neuropeptide;
  • rat;
  • vasopressin


The functional implications of intraneuronal coexistence of different neuropeptides depend on their respective targeting to release sites. In the rat hypothalamic magnocellular neurons, we investigated a possible differential routing of the coexpressed galanin and vasopressin. The respective location of proteins and messengers was assessed with double immunogold and in situ hybridization combining confocal and electron microscope analysis. The various populations of labelled granules were quantitatively compared in three subcellular compartments: perikarya, local processes and posthypophyseal nerve endings. Three subpopulations of granules were detected in all three compartments, but their respective amount showed significant differences. Galanin alone was immunolocalized in some secretory granules, vasopressin alone in others, and both peptides in a third subpopulation of granules. The major part of the granules containing vasopressin, either alone or in association with galanin, is found in neurohypophyseal nerve endings. In contrast, galanin single-labelled granules represent the most abundant population in dendritic processes, while double-labelled granules are more numerous in perikarya. This indicates a preferential distribution of the two peptides in the different compartments of magnocellular neurons. Furthermore, galanin and vasopressin messenger RNAs were detected at different domains of the endoplasmic reticulum, suggesting that translation might also occur at different locations, thus leading to partial segregation of galanin and vasopressin cargoes between two populations of secretory granules. The present study provides, for the first time in mammals, evidence suggesting that galanin and vasopressin are only partly copackaged and undergo a preferential targeting toward dendrites or neurohypophysis, suggesting different functions, autocrine/paracrine and endocrine, respectively.