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J Neurophysiol. 1999 Nov;82(5):2747-64.

Electrophysiological and morphological diversity of mouse sympathetic neurons.

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Department of Anatomy and Histology and Centre for Neuroscience, Flinders University of South Australia, Adelaide, South Australia 5001, Australia.


We have used multiple-labeling immunohistochemistry, intracellular dye-filling, and intracellular microelectrode recordings to characterize the morphological and electrical properties of sympathetic neurons in the superior cervical, thoracic, and celiac ganglia of mice. Neurochemical and morphological characteristics of neurons varied between ganglia. Thoracic sympathetic ganglia contained three main populations of neurons based on differential patterns of expression of immunoreactivity to tyrosine hydroxylase, neuropeptide Y (NPY) and vasoactive intestinal peptide (VIP). In the celiac ganglion, nearly all neurons contained immunoreactivity to both tyrosine hydroxylase and NPY. Both the overall size of the dendritic tree and the number of primary dendrites were greater in neurons from the thoracic and celiac ganglia compared with those from the superior cervical ganglion. The electrophysiological properties of sympathetic neurons depended more on their ganglion of origin rather than their probable targets. All neurons in the superior cervical ganglion had phasic firing properties and large afterhyperpolarizations (AHPs). In addition, 34% of these neurons displayed an afterdepolarization preceding the AHP. Superior cervical ganglion neurons had prominent I(M), I(A), and I(H) currents and a linear current-voltage relationship between -60 and -110 mV. Neurons from the thoracic ganglia had significantly smaller action potentials, AHPs, and apparent cell capacitance compared with superior cervical ganglion neurons, and only 18% showed an afterdepolarization. All neurons in superior cervical ganglia and most neurons in celiac ganglia received at least one strong preganglionic input. Nearly one-half the neurons in the celiac ganglion had tonic firing properties, and another 15% had firing properties intermediate between those of tonic and phasic neurons. Most celiac neurons showed significant inward rectification below -90 mV. They also expressed I(A), but with slower inactivation kinetics than that of superior cervical or thoracic neurons. Both phasic and tonic celiac ganglion neurons received synaptic inputs via the celiac nerves in addition to strong inputs via the splanchnic nerves. Multivariate statistical analysis revealed that the properties of the action potential, the AHP, and the apparent cell capacitance together were sufficient to correctly classify 80% of neurons according to their ganglion of origin. These results indicate that there is considerable heterogeneity in the morphological, neurochemical, and electrical properties of sympathetic neurons in mice. Although the morphological and neurochemical characteristics of the neurons are likely to be related to their peripheral projections, the expression of particular electrophysiological traits seems to be more closely related to the ganglia within which the neurons occur.

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