The source and possible role of excitatory amino acid projections to areas of the ventrolateral medulla (VLM) involved in cardiovascular control were studied. Following the injection of [3H]d-aspartate ([3H]d-Asp), a selective tracer for excitatory amino acid pathways, into vasopressor or vasodepressor areas of the VLM in rats, more then 90% of retrogradely labelled neurones were found in the nucleus of the solitary tract (NTS). Very few of the [3H]d-Asp-labelled cells were immunoreactive for tyrosine hydroxylase, none for phenylethanolamine-N-methyltransferase or γ-aminobutyric acid. The density of labelled cells in the NTS was similar to that obtained with the non-selective tracers wheat germ agglutinin-horseradish peroxidase (WGA-HRP) and WGA-colloidal gold, but these tracers also labelled other cell groups in the medulla. Furthermore, the decrease in blood pressure, caused by pharmacological activation of neurones in the NTS of rats, or by electrical stimulation of the aortic depressor nerve in rabbits could be blocked by the selective N-methyl-d-aspartate (NMDA) receptor antagonist 2-amino-5-phosphonovalerate injected into the caudal vasodepressor area of the VLM. This area corresponds to the termination of [3H]d-Asp transporting NTS neurones. These results provide evidence that a population of NTS neurones projecting to the VLM use excitatory amino acids as transmitters. Among other possible functions, this pathway may mediate tonic and reflex control of blood pressure via NMDA receptors in the VLM.
- Blood pressure
- Cardiovascular control
- Excitatory amino acid
- N-Methyl-d-aspartate receptor