In order to test the premise that non-adrenergic, non-cholinergic (NANC) autonomic nerves have a distinctive ultrastructural appearance, clearly different from that of cholinergic nerves, a detailed quantitative ultrastructural analysis has been made of the non-adrenergic innervation of 15 tissues thought from pharmacological evidence to be innervated by NANC nerves (rat and rabbit anococcygeus muscles; rabbit hepatic portal vein; extrinsically denervated toad lung); cholinergic nerves (atria of rat, rabbit, guinea-pig and toad); or both (guinea-pig cervical and thoracic trachealis muscle; rabbit rectococcygeus muscle; urinary bladder of rat, rabbit, guinea-pig and toad) in addition to their adrenergic supply. Following fixation with a modified chromaffin procedure allowing identification of adrenergic nerves, large, randomly selected samples of non-adrenergic nerve profiles from each tissue were analysed with respect to numbers, relative proportions, and size frequency distributions of different vesicle classes within the profiles. The neuromuscular relationships within each tissue were also analysed. On the basis of these analyses, it is clear that there are no consistent ultrastructural differences between cholinergic and NANC autonomic nerves: neither proportions nor sizes of the vesicles provide any clue as to the transmitter used by a particular nerve. The great majority of nerve profiles, whether cholinergic or NANC, contain predominantly small clear "synaptic" vesicles. Large filled "peptidergic" vesicles are no more common in most NANC nerves than in most cholinergic ones. It is concluded, on ultrastructural grounds, that the primary transmitter in these NANC autonomie nerves is most likely to be stored in and released from the small clear vesicles.
- Cholinergic nerves
- Nervous transmission
- Non-adrenergic, non-cholinergic nerves