GABA- and glutamate-immunoreactive synapses on sympathetic preganglionic neurons projecting to the superior cervical ganglion

I. J. Llewellyn-Smith, L. F. Arnolda, P. M. Pilowsky, J. P. Chalmers, J. B. Minson

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    Abstract

    Our previous work suggests that virtually all of the synapses on sympathetic preganglionic neurons projecting to the rat adrenal medulla are immunoreactive for either the inhibitory amino acid, γ-aminobutyric acid (GABA) or the excitatory amino acid, l-glutamate. To investigate whether or not this is true for other groups of sympathetic preganglionic neurons, and to determine whether or not the proportion of inputs containing each type of amino acid neurotransmitter is the same for different groups of sympathetic preganglionic neurons, we retrogradely labelled rat and rabbit sympathetic preganglionic neurons projecting to the superior cervical ganglion and used post-embedding immunogold on ultrathin sections to localise GABA- and glutamate-immunoreactivity. The cell bodies and dendrites of both rat and rabbit sympathetic preganglionic neurons projecting to the superior cervical ganglion received synapses and direct contacts from nerve fibres immunoreactive for GABA and from nerve fibres immunoreactive for glutamate. In the rat, GABA was present in 48.9% of the inputs to sympathetic preganglionic neurons projecting to the superior cervical ganglion, and glutamate was present in 51.7% of inputs. Double immunogold labelling for glutamate and GABA on the same section, as well as labelling of consecutive serial sections for the two antigens, indicated that GABA and glutamate occur in separate populations of nerve fibres that provide input to rat sympathetic preganglionic neurons projecting to the superior cervical ganglion. We now have shown that GABA or glutamate is present in virtually all of the inputs to sympathetic preganglionic neurons projecting to the superior cervical ganglion and in essentially all of the inputs to sympathetic preganglionic neurons supplying the adrenal medulla. These findings are consistent with the hypothesis that all fast synaptic transmission in central autonomic pathways may be mediated by either excitatory or inhibitory amino acids. Furthermore, we showed a statistically significant difference in the proportion of glutamate-immunoreactive inputs between sympathetic preganglionic neurons projecting to the superior cervical ganglion and sympathoadrenal neurons (data from Llewellyn-Smith et al. [Llewellyn-Smith, I.J., Phend, K.D., Minson, J.B., Pilowsky, P.M., Chalmers, J.P., 1992. Glutamate immunoreactive synapses on retrogradely labelled sympathetic neurons in rat thoracic spinal cord. Brain Res. 581, 67-80]), with preganglionics supplying the adrenal medulla receiving more excitatory inputs than those supplying the superior cervical ganglion. This increased excitatory input to sympathoadrenal neurons may explain the predominant activation of these neurons following baroreceptor unloading. Copyright (C) 1998 Elsevier Science B.V.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)96-110
    Number of pages15
    JournalJournal of the Autonomic Nervous System
    Volume71
    Issue number2-3
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - 15 Jul 1998

    Keywords

    • Amino acids
    • Cholera toxin B subunit
    • Immunocytochemistry
    • Retrograde tracing
    • Spinal cord
    • Ultrastructure

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