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Neuroscience. 2006 Sep 15;141(4):1995-2005. Epub 2006 Jul 10.

Local inputs to aldosterone-sensitive neurons of the nucleus tractus solitarius.

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  • 1Department of Anatomy and Neurobiology, Box 8108, Washington University School of Medicine, 660 South Euclid Avenue, St. Louis, MO 63110, USA.


Aldosterone-sensitive neurons in the nucleus tractus solitarius (NTS) become activated during sodium depletion and could be key neural elements regulating sodium intake. The afferent inputs to these neurons have not yet been defined, but one source may be neurons in the area postrema, a neighboring circumventricular organ that innervates the NTS and exerts a powerful inhibitory influence on sodium appetite [Contreras RJ, Stetson PW (1981) Changes in salt intake after lesions of the area postrema and the nucleus of the solitary tract in rats. Brain Res 211:355-366]. After an anterograde axonal tracer was injected into the area postrema in rats, sections through the NTS were immunolabeled for the enzyme 11-beta-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase type 2 (HSD2), a marker for aldosterone-sensitive neurons, and examined by confocal microscopy. We found that some of the aldosterone-sensitive neurons received close appositions from processes originating in the area postrema, suggesting that input to the HSD2 neurons could be involved in the inhibition of sodium appetite by this site. Axonal varicosities originating from the area postrema also made close appositions with other neurons in the medial NTS, including the neurotensin-immunoreactive neurons in the dorsomedial NTS. Besides these projections, a dense field of neurotensinergic axon terminals overlapped the distribution of the HSD2 neurons. Neurotensin-immunoreactive axon terminals were identified in close apposition to the dendrites and cell bodies of some HSD2 neurons, as well as unlabeled neurons lying in the same zone within the medial NTS. A local microcircuit involving the area postrema, HSD2 neurons, and neurotensinergic neurons may play a major role in the regulation of sodium appetite.

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