Silencing relaxin-3 in nucleus incertus of adult rodents: A viral vector-based approach to investigate neuropeptide function

Gabrielle E. Callander, Sherie Ma, Despina E. Ganella, Verena C. Wimmer, Andrew L. Gundlach, Walter G. Thomas, Ross A D Bathgate

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Relaxin-3, the most recently identified member of the relaxin peptide family, is produced by GABAergic projection neurons in the nucleus incertus (NI), in the pontine periventricular gray. Previous studies suggest relaxin-3 is a modulator of stress responses, metabolism, arousal and behavioural activation. Knockout mice and peptide infusions in vivo have significantly contributed to understanding the function of this conserved neuropeptide. Yet, a definitive role remains elusive due to discrepancies between models and a propensity to investigate pharmacological effects over endogenous function. To investigate the endogenous function of relaxin-3, we generated a recombinant adeno-associated viral (rAAV) vector expressing microRNA against relaxin-3 and validated its use to knock down relaxin-3 in adult rats. Bilateral stereotaxic infusion of rAAV1/2 EmGFP miR499 into the NI resulted in significant reductions in relaxin-3 expression as demonstrated by ablation of relaxin-3-like immunoreactivity at 3, 6 and 9 weeks and by qRT-PCR at 12 weeks. Neuronal health was unaffected as transduced neurons in all groups retained expression of NeuN and stained for Nissl bodies. Importantly, qRT-PCR confirmed that relaxin-3 receptor expression levels were not altered to compensate for reduced relaxin-3. Behavioural experiments confirmed no detrimental effects on general health or well-being and therefore several behavioural modalities previously associated with relaxin-3 function were investigated. The validation of this viral vector-based model provides a valuable alternative to existing in vivo approaches and promotes a shift towards more physiologically relevant investigations of endogenous neuropeptide function.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere42300
Number of pages15
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - 2 Aug 2012
Externally publishedYes

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