Article révisé par les pairs
Résumé : The study of the biochemical and physiological functions of the enkephalinergic cell has greatly extended our understanding of peptidergic cells in general. In the adrenal gland, the major part of the proenkephalin-derived peptides is present as intermediates in the processing of the precursor. These peptides are contained within the adrenergic chromaffin granules, from which they are released in response to stimulation of the cell. The nature of the products released depends on the nature of the stimulus, but it appears that mature granules containing completely processed peptides are preferentially released under physiological conditions. In the brain, the presence and release of the heptapeptide that comprises the carboxyl terminus of adrenal proenkephalin suggest that similar mechanisms are operating centrally. The identity of brain and adrenal proenkephalin is further supported by the purification from brain of a large fragment of the proenkephalin molecule, synenkephalin , and the occurrence in brain of this and the other proenkephalin-derived peptides in a molar ratio close to that found in the sequence of the adrenal precursor. The processing of proenkephalin in brain appears to follow the classical models first proposed for peptide hormones (Steiner et al. 1980), which may thus be generalized to include peptide neurotransmitters/neuroregulators. In addition, the results presented in this paper indicate that enkephalins may be cotransmitters in at least two diverse systems. Enkephalins and catecholamines are colocalized in the adrenergic granules of the adrenal gland. In the brain, enkephalins and oxytocin are colocalized in the magnocellular neurons of the hypothalamo-neurohypophyseal oxytocinergic pathway. In both of these systems, the enkephalins are present in a molar concentration that is less than 1% of the concentration of the principal messenger. Such colocalization , coupled with the numerous active peptides that may arise from proenkephalin, suggests many elegant but complex schemes of neurotransmitter interactions. For example, release of enkephalins in the neurohypophysis may regulate oxytocin release through an action on autoreceptors of the oxytocinergic terminal. In the adrenal the coreleased enkephalins may act by regulating presynaptically the cholinergic output of the splanchnic nerve. However, further studies are needed to define clearly the physiological roles of such cotransmission . From the abundance of proenkephalin-derived peptides in the basal ganglia, it appears that enkephalins may represent the principal transmitter in some central neurons.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 400 WORDS)