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J Comp Neurol. 1991 May 8;307(2):237-58.

Development and migration of avian sympathetic preganglionic neurons.

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Department of Pharmacological and Physiological Sciences, University of Chicago, Illinois 60637.


Modern neuronanatomical techniques were used to investigate the development of the avian sympathetic preganglionic cell column in the spinal cord of the chick embryo. [3H]thymidine autoradiography indicated that the majority of these preganglionic, or "Terni column" neurons are generated between stages 18 and 24 (days 2-4). This coincides with the genesis of the somatic motoneurons in the thoracic levels of the cord, and therefore differences in the time of origin cannot explain the divergent fates of these two neuronal populations. Data obtained from short-survival autoradiographic experiments indicated that many early born cells remain close to the ventral region of the ventricular epithelium until day 5 of incubation. Ventral root injections used to label retrogradely neurons projecting an axon into the ventral root (Terni cells and somatic motoneurons) have labeled neurons next to the ventricular epithelium at the same early stages. Thus, it seems likely that some Terni cells, if not all, maintain medial positions and do not migrate laterally to join a common motor column before initiating a dorsal migration. Analysis of a closely staged series of embryos, whose Terni column neurons were retrogradely labeled with wheat germ agglutinin-horseradish peroxidase (WGA-HRP), revealed that between days 5 and 8 of incubation, Terni column neurons migrated dorsally to attain their adult position adjacent to the central canal. These changes in position were reflected in the changing morphology of the Terni column neurons, visualized by the Golgi-like HRP labeling. The positions of the migrating Terni cells differed from those of commissural cells, indicating that these fibers are not the substrate for the dorsal migration. The dorsal migration of Terni column cells was not disrupted by the surgical removal of the sympathetic ganglia, the synaptic targets of these neurons, nor by disruption of spinal afferents. Taken together, these results suggest that the migratory behavior of Terni cells in distinctive when compared to that of somatic motoneurons, and that local and/or intrinsic cues within the spinal cord guide the dorsal migration of Terni column cells.

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