Brain Structure & Function
The lateral hypothalamus is a major integrative hub with a complex architecture characterized by intricate and overlapping cellular populations expressing a large variety of neuro-mediators. In rats, the subfornical lateral hypothalamus (LHsf) was identified as a discrete area with very specific outputs, receiving a strong input from the nucleus incertus, and involved in defensive and foraging behaviors. We identified in the mouse lateral hypothalamus a discrete subfornical region where a conspicuous cluster of neurons express the mu opioid receptor. We thus examined the inputs and outputs of this LHsf region in mice using retrograde tracing with the cholera toxin B subunit and anterograde tracing with biotin dextran amine, respectively. We identified a connectivity profile largely similar, although not identical, to what has been described in rats. Indeed, the mouse LHsf has strong reciprocal connections with the lateral septum, the ventromedial hypothalamic nucleus and the dorsal pre-mammillary nucleus, in addition to a dense output to the lateral habenula. However, the light input from the nucleus incertus and the moderate bidirectional connectivity with nucleus accumbens are specific to the mouse LHsf. A preliminary neurochemical study showed that LHsf neurons expressing mu opioid receptors also co-express calcitonin gene-related peptide or somatostatin and that the reciprocal connection between the LHsf and the lateral septum may be functionally modulated by enkephalins acting on mu opioid receptors. These results suggest that the mouse LHsf may be hodologically and functionally comparable to its rat counterpart, but more atypical connections also suggest a role in consummatory behaviors.