Calbindin-immunoreactive neurons in the reticular formation of the rat brainstem: Catecholamine content and spinal projections

Ann K. Goodchild, Ida J. Llewellyn-Smith, Qi Jian Sun, John Chalmers, Anne M. Cunningham, Paul M. Pilowsky

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    Calbindin-D28k (calbindin) is a calcium-binding protein that is distributed widely in the rat brain. The localisation of calbindin immunoreactivity in the medulla oblongata and its colocalisation with adrenaline-synthesising neurons [phenylethanolamine-N-methyltransferase-immunoreactive (PNMT-IR)] was examined (Granata and Chang [1994] Brain Res. 645:265-277). However, detailed information about the distribution of calbindin-IR neurons in the reticular formation of the medulla oblongata in particular is lacking. In this report, the authors address this issue with an emphasis on the quantitation of calbindin-IR neurons, catecholamine neurons [tyrosine hydroxylase (TH)-IR, or PNMT-IR], and spinally projecting neurons in the ventral brainstem. Rats received injections of the retrograde tracing agent cholera toxin B (CTB) into the thoracic spinal cord or into the superior cervical ganglion. Immunocytochemistry was used to reveal calbindin, TH, PNMT, and CTB immunoreactivity. Ten calbindin-IR cell groups were identified within the pontomedullary reticular formation. Seven previously undescribed but distinct clusters of calbindin-IR neurons were found. Within the ventral pons, a population of calbindin-IR neurons occurred dorsal but adjacent to the A5 cell group. These calbindin-IR neurons did not contain either TH or PNMT immunoreactivity, and few if any of these neurons projected to the spinal cord. A distinct group of calbindin-IR neurons was present in the ventral medulla. Seventy-five percent of these calbindin-IR neurons contained TH immunoreactivity, 45% contained PNMT immunoreactivity, and 21% were spinally projecting neurons. Spinally projecting, calbindin-IR neurons were a subpopulation of PNMT-IR cells. In the caudal ventral medulla, no TH-IR or PNMT-IR cells were calbindin-IR. In the intermediolateral cell column; close appositions of calbindin-IR terminals on identified sympathetic preganglionic neurons as well as calbindin-IR synapses indicated that these neurons may affect directly the sympathetic outflow. The results demonstrate for the first time the existence of a new subpopulation of spinally projecting, PNMT-IR neurons in the rostral ventrolateral medulla. (C) 2000 Wiley-Liss, Inc.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)547-562
    Number of pages16
    JournalJournal of Comparative Neurology
    Issue number3
    Publication statusPublished - 28 Aug 2000


    • A5
    • C1
    • Phenylethanolamine-N-methyltransferase
    • Rostral ventrolateral medulla
    • Sympathetic


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