Conserved across vertebrates, the habenular nuclei are a pair of small symmetrical structures in the epithalamus. The nuclei functionally link the forebrain and midbrain by receiving input from and projecting to several brain regions. Each habenular nucleus comprises two major asymmetrical subnuclei, the medial and lateral habenula. These subnuclei are associated with different physiological processes and disorders, such as depression, nicotine addiction, and encoding aversive stimuli or omitting expected rewarding stimuli. Elucidating the functions of the habenular nuclei at the molecular level requires knowledge of their neuropeptide complement. In this work, three mass spectrometry (MS) techniques - liquid chromatography (LC) coupled to Orbitrap tandem MS (MS/MS), LC coupled to Fourier transform (FT)-ion cyclotron resonance (ICR) MS/MS, and matrix-assisted laser desorption/ionization (MALDI) FT-ICR MS - were used to uncover the neuropeptide profiles of the rodent medial and lateral habenula. With the assistance of tissue stabilization and bioinformatics, a total of 262 and 177 neuropeptides produced from 27 and 20 prohormones were detected and identified from the medial and lateral habenula regions, respectively. Among these neuropeptides, 136 were exclusively found in the medial habenula, and 51 were exclusively expressed in the lateral habenula. Additionally, novel sites of sulfation, a rare post-translational modification, on the secretogranin I prohormone are identified. The results demonstrate that these two small brain nuclei have a rich and differentiated peptide repertoire, with this information enabling a range of follow-up studies.
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