Synaptic organisation of neuropeptide-containing preganglionic boutons in lumbar sympathetic ganglia of guinea pigs

Susan M. Murphy, Sue E. Matthew, Helen F. Rodgers, Darren T. Lituri, Ian L. Gibbins

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    45 Citations (Scopus)


    Within the lumbar sympathetic ganglia of guinea pigs, the endings of different populations of neuropeptide-containing preganglionic neurons form well-defined pericellular baskets of boutons around target neurons in specific functional pathways. We have used multiple-labelling immunofluorescence, confocal microscopy, and ultrastructural immunocytochemistry to investigate synaptic organisation within pericellular baskets labelled for immunoreactivity to calcitenin gene-related peptide (CGRP), substance P (SP), or the pro-enkephalin-derived peptide, met- enkephalin-arg-gly-leu (MERGL) in relation to their target neurons. Different functional populations of neurons, identified by their neurochemical profile, showed a significant degree of spatial clustering and predicted well the distribution of specific classes of pericellular baskets. Most of the boutons in a basket were completely surrounded by Schwann cell processes and did not form synapses. The synapses that were present were made mostly onto dendrites enclosed by the Schwann cell sheath surrounding the neuron within the basket. These dendrites probably originated from neurochemically similar neighbouring neurons. Nevertheless, some of the boutons in the baskets did form synapses with the cell body or proximal dendrites of the neuron they surrounded. Occasionally, cell bodies received a relatively high number of synapses and close appositions from boutons in a pericellular basket. Synaptic convergence of two immunohistochemically distinct types of preganglionic inputs was found in baskets of SP-immunoreactive or MERGL-immunoreactive, but not CGRP- immunoreactive, boutons. Taken together, our results show that the appearance of pericellular baskets is primarily due to the packing of the target neurons. The grouping of functionally similar classes of neurons with their pathway-specific projections of peptide-containing preganglionic neurons suggests that peptides could exert their effects in relatively well-defined zones within the ganglia.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)551-567
    Number of pages17
    JournalJournal of Comparative Neurology
    Issue number4
    Publication statusPublished - 7 Sept 1998


    • Confocal microscopy
    • Convergence
    • Immunohistochemistry
    • Synapse
    • Ultrastructure


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