Retrograde tracing with cholera toxin B subunit (CTB) combined with post-embedding immunogold labelling was used to demonstrate the presence of glutamate-immunoreactive synapses on sympathetic preganglionic neurons that project to the adrenal medulla or to the superior cervical ganglion in rat thoracic spinal cord. At the electron microscope level, glutamate-immunoreactive synapses were found on retrogradely labelled nerve cell bodies and on dendrites of all sizes. Two-thirds of the vesicle-containing axon profiles that were directly apposed to, or synapsed on, CTB-immunoreactive sympathoadrenal neurons were glutamate positive. The proportion of glutamate-immunoreactive contacts and synapses on sympathoadrenal neurons decreased to zero when the anti-glutamate antiserum was absorbed with increasing concentrations of glutamate from 0.1 mM to 10mM. Double immunogold labelling for glutamate and γ-aminobutyric acid (GABA) showed that glutamate-immunoreactive profiles did not contain GABA and that GABA-immunoreactive profiles did not contain glutamate. These results suggest that glutamate is the major excitatory neurotransmitter to sympathoadrenal neurons and possibly to other sympathetic preganglionic neurons in the intermediolateral cell column of the spinal cord.
- Cholera toxin B subunit
- Colloidal gold
- Retrograde tracing
- Spinal cord
- Sympathetic preganglionic neuron