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Neuroscience. 1991;43(2-3):531-50.

A comparative analysis of neurons containing catecholamine-synthesizing enzymes and neuropeptide Y in the ventrolateral medulla of rats, guinea-pigs and cats.

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Department of Pathology, University of Sydney, N.S.W., Australia.


Neurons in the ventrolateral medulla oblongata of rats, guinea-pigs and cats that contain tyrosine hydroxylase, dopamine-beta-hydroxylase, phenylethanolamine-N-methyltransferase and neuropeptide Y have been demonstrated immunohistochemically in serial coronal sections of tissue taken from the level of the cervical spinal cord to the level of the facial nucleus. The anatomical distribution of these neurons has been described, quantified and reconstructed in three dimensions to compare the neuron populations between species. In all species, between 50 and 90% of immunoreactive neurons lay rostral to the level of the obex. There were no significant differences in the number and distribution of neurons containing catecholamine-synthesizing enzymes between control animals and those pretreated with colchicine, with two exceptions: all dopamine-beta-hydroxylase neurons were weakly immunoreactive without colchicine pretreatment in cats, and pretreatment with colchicine revealed a small rostral group of tyrosine hydroxylase-positive neurons in guinea-pigs. There were remarkable similarities in the rostrocaudal distributions of neurons containing tyrosine hydroxylase, dopamine-beta-hydroxylase and neuropeptide Y in relation to comparable anatomical landmarks across the species. However, the distributions of neurons containing tyrosine hydroxylase. Phenylethanolamine-N-methyltransferase-positive neurons, while densely stained in rats, were only faintly stained in cats and absent in guinea-pigs; the distribution of these neurons was similar to the distribution of neurons containing only tyrosine hydroxylase. The similarity of the distribution of neurons demonstrated using tyrosine hydroxylase, dopamine-beta-hydroxylase and neuropeptide Y immunohistochemistry implies that homologous catecholamine-containing neuron groups do exist in the ventrolateral medulla despite the variation in phenylethanolamine-N-methyltransferase between species. In contrast to the previous classification of neuron groups into A1 and C1 based on the presence or absence of this latter enzyme, the data suggest that a discrete group of tyrosine hydroxylase-immunoreactive neurons, which probably do not contain dopamine-beta-hydroxylase or neuropeptide Y, can be distinguished in the rostral ventrolateral medulla of all species. The absence of detectable dopamine-beta-hydroxylase in this group of neurons suggests that they may not synthesize either adrenaline or noradrenaline.

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