This study has used multiple-labelling immunohistochemistry and quantitative analysis to examine the projections of subpopulations of parasympathetic and sympathetic neurons to different vascular and secretory structures in five cranial exocrine glands of guinea-pigs. Multiple subpopulations of parasympathetic axons, identified by immunoreactivity (IR) for various combinations of peptides, innervated arteries, arterioles, ducts and acini in sublingual, submandibular, parotid, lacrimal and zygomatic glands, although axons were absent from ducts in the parotid gland. Most parasympathetic axons contained IR for vasoactive intestinal peptide (VIP) and neuropeptide Y (NPY), with or without enkephalin (Enk). The proportion of parasympathetic axons that contained Enk-IR varied greatly between target tissues and glands: Enk-IR was more common in axons supplying secretory ducts, acini and arterioles than in axons innervating more proximal arteries; Enk-IR was less common in axons supplying the lacrimal gland than axons supplying the submandibular, lacrimal and zygomatic glands. Sympathetic axons with IR for tyrosine hydroxylase (TH) innervated arterial vessels in all glands, but innervated secretory structures only in the salivary glands. Sympathetic axons supplying proximal arterial segments often contained NPY-IR and sometimes also contained IR for dynorphin. Dynorphin-IR was more common in axons in the parotid, lacrimal and zygomatic glands than in the sublingual and submandibular glands. In contrast, axons supplying arterioles, ducts and acini lacked peptide IR. These results indicate that neuronal pathways regulating proximal arteries in cranial exocrine glands are different from the neuronal pathways regulating arterioles and acini, and may be different from neurons projecting to proximal secretory ducts. Furthermore, the peptides enkephalin, NPY and dynorphin are likely to make variable contributions to autonomic neurotransmission in different arterial segments and in different cranial exocrine glands.
- Parasympathetic neurons
- Secretory ducts