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Brain Res. 1992 Feb 14;572(1-2):108-16.

The central organization of carotid body afferent projections to the brainstem of the rat.

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  • 1Department of Medicine, University Hospitals of Cleveland, OH 44106.


Despite increasing focus on brainstem respiratory control mechanisms in the rat, relatively little is known about the central organization of chemoreceptor pathways in this species. To approach this issue, the present study sought to selectively define the central projections of primary sensory neurons that innervate the carotid body. Afferent projections were visualized by horseradish peroxidase histochemistry following microinjection of wheat germ agglutinin-horseradish peroxidase into the vascularly isolated carotid body in situ. Labeled afferent fibers were found in several discrete regions of the dorsomedial and ventrolateral medulla. Heaviest labeling was seen bilaterally in the commissural and medial subnuclei of the caudal nucleus tractus solitarius (nTS); more moderate labeling was found bilaterally in the intermediate, interstitial, and dorsolateral subnuclei and ipsilaterally in the ventrolateral subnuclei. In addition, we observed a prominent projection to the caudal ventrolateral medulla in the region of the nucleus retroambigualis. Sparse labeling was also seen in the dorsal motor nucleus of the vagus nerve and the area postrema. These findings support the existence of multiple pathways by which peripheral chemoreceptor inputs may influence central respiratory neurons. In addition to the classically defined relay in nTS, carotid body afferents may also interact more directly with respiratory- or cardiovascular-related neurons in other regions such as the ventrolateral medulla.

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