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Histochem Cell Biol. 2004 Sep;122(3):201-9. Epub 2004 Aug 26.

Immunocytochemical properties of stellate ganglion neurons during early postnatal development.

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Department of Normal Physiology and Biophysics, Yaroslavl State Medical Academy, Revoliucionnaya 5, 150000, Russia.


Neurotransmitter features in sympathetic neurons are subject to change during development. To better understand the neuroplasticity of sympathetic neurons during early postnatal ontogenesis, this study was set up to immunocytochemically investigate the development of the catecholaminergic, cholinergic, and peptidergic phenotypes in the stellate ganglion of mice and rats. The present study was performed on Wistar rats and Swiss mice of different ages (newborn, 10-day-old, 20-day-old, 30-day-old, and 60-day-old). To this end, double labeling for tyrosine hydroxylase (TH), choline acetyltransferase (ChAT), vasoactive intestinal (poly)peptide (VIP), neuropeptide Y (NPY), galanin (GAL), and somatostatin (SOM) was applied. The results obtained indicate that the majority of the neurons in the stellate ganglion of both species were TH-positive from birth onward and that a large part of these neurons also contained NPY. The percentage of neurons containing TH and NPY invariably increased with age up to 60 days postnatally. A smaller portion of the stellate ganglion neurons contained other types of neuropeptides and showed a distinct chronological pattern. The proportion of VIP- and ChAT-positive neurons was maximal in 10-day-old animals and then decreased up to 60 days of age, whereas the number of SOM-positive cells in rats significantly decreased from birth onward. In newborn rats, VIP-, ChAT- and SOM-positive neurons were largely TH-positive, while their proportions decreased in 10-day-old and older rats. Accordingly, the largest part of VIP-positive neurons also expressed SOM immunoreactivity at birth, after which the number of neurons containing both peptides diminished. The VIP- and SOM-positive cells did not contain NPY in any of the age groups studied. In rats up to 10 days of life, GAL-immunoreactive (-IR) neurons were scarce, after which their number increased to reach a maximal value in 30-day-old animals and then declined again. The SOM-reactive cells had the smallest size in all rats, while the largest neurons were those containing ChAT. In the mouse stellate ganglion, VIP- and ChAT-IR neurons were larger in comparison to NPY- and TH-IR cells. Our study further revealed some species differences: compared to mice the proportion of neurons containing TH and NPY was higher in rats at all ages under study. Furthermore, no GAL-immunostained neurons were found in mice and the number of SOM-positive cells in mice was limited compared to that observed in rats. In conclusion, the development of neurotransmitter composition is complete in rats and mice by their second month of life. At this age, the percentages of immunopositive cells have become similar to those reported in adult animals.

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