Co-localization and plasticity of transmitters in peripheral autonomic and sensory neurons

J. L. Morris, I. L. Gibbins

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    45 Citations (Scopus)


    Immunohistochemical studies have shown that most peripheral autonomic and sensory ganglia are heterogeneous, consisting of several populations of neurons which can be distinguished by their content of peptide and non-peptide transmitters and transmitter-associated enzymes. Many neurons contain several different potential transmitters, especially neuropeptides. Some neuropeptides have been localized in more than one population of autonomic and sensory neurons. However, the peptide often occurs together with a distinctive combination of additional transmitters in each neuronal class. The precise combination of transmitters found in any individual neuron is highly correlated with the peripheral target of the neuron. This indicates that immunohistochemically defined neuronal populations represent distinct functional classes of neurons. In an increasing number of cases, many of the potential transmitters contained in a particular neuron have been shown to be released from the nerve terminals, and to contribute to presynaptic or postsynaptic effects of nerve activation. Despite this association between the combination of potential transmitters contained in a neuron, and the function of the neuron, not all transmitters or transmitter-associated enzymes are expressed equally at all times in the life of a neuron: the levels of some substances change dramatically during development; some are detected only after experimental alteration of the environment of the developing or mature neurons. Taken together, these results indicate that, during development, pathway-specific information influences the differentiation of peripheral autonomic and sensory neurons. Furthermore, the expression of neuropeptides and transmitter-associated enzymes in a particular neuron appears to be under continuous regulation. These phenomena demonstrate the complexity and precision involved in development and maintenance of the peripheral autonomic and sensory nervous systems.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)521-531
    Number of pages11
    JournalInternational Journal of Developmental Neuroscience
    Issue number5
    Publication statusPublished - 1989


    • co-localization
    • neuropeptide
    • neurotransmitter
    • parasympathetic neuron
    • plasticity
    • sympathetic neuron


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