Synaptic structures and quantification of catecholaminergic axons in the nucleus tractussolitarius of the rat: possible modulatory roles of catecholamines in baroreceptor reflexes

Author(s): Chiba T, Kato M


The synaptic organization in the nucleus tractus solitarius (NTS) of the rat at the level of the obex was examined by fluorescence and electron microscopy in 5 groups of animals: (1) normal control, (2) intraventricular injection of 5-OHDA, (3) intraventricular injection of 6-OHDA, (4) intracranial denervation of the IXth and Xth cranial nerves, and (5) intraventricular injection of 5-OHDA 48 h after intracranial denervation of the IXth and Xth cranial nerves. A dense network of catecholaminergic nerves was observed in the NTS and several catecholaminergic neurons were seen to be scattered in the lateral portion of the NTS. Nerve cells in the NTS were small in size (15-20 micrometer in diameter). In addition to ordinary axodendritic and axo-somatic synapses, serial synapses were occasionally encountered. The first presynaptic site in some of the serial synapses was identified as catecholaminergic by 6-OHDA treatment. After treatment with 5-OHDA, 2.4% of axon varicosities were identified as catecholaminergic by small dense-cored vesicles. After administration of 6-OHDA, 5.19% of dense degenerated axon varicosities were counted. After intracranial deafferentation of the IXth and Xth cranial nerves, 5.3% of dense degenerated axon varicosities were found. The total number of axon varicosities in 6800 sq.mum area was decreased by 9% after the injection of 6-OHDA and 11% after deafferentation of the IXth and Xth cranial nerves. At least 3 types of axons could be identified: (1) catecholaminergic axons with small dense-cored vesicles after 5-OHDA administration, (2) afferent axons from the IXth and Xth cranial nerves with small clear vesicles, and (3) axons with small clear vesicles probably originated from the supramedullary nucleus. The results of the present study suggest that catecholamines modulate reflex blood pressure regulation within the NTS of the rat.

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