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Auton Neurosci. 2009 Jan 28;145(1-2):17-26. doi: 10.1016/j.autneu.2008.10.012. Epub 2008 Nov 18.

Modulation of rat parasympathetic cardiac ganglion phenotype and NGF synthesis by adrenergic nerves.

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Department of Molecular and Integrative Physiology, University of Kansas Medical Center, Kansas City, Kansas 66160, USA.


Cardiac function is regulated by interactions among intrinsic and extrinsic autonomic neurons, and the mechanisms responsible for organizing these circuits are poorly understood. Parasympathetic neurons elsewhere synthesize the neurotrophin NGF, which may promote postganglionic axonal associations where parasympathetic axons inhibit sympathetic transmitter release. Previous studies have shown that parasympathetic NGF content and neurochemical phenotype are regulated by sympathetic innervation. In this study we assessed contributions of sympathetic input on cardiac ganglion neuronal phenotype and NGF expression. Because cardiac ganglia are reported to contain putative noradrenergic neurons, we eliminated sympathetic input both surgically (extrinsic) and chemically (extrinsic plus intrinsic). In controls, most cardiac ganglion neurons expressed vesicular acetylcholine transporter, frequently colocalized with vesicular monoamine transporter, but lacked catecholamine histofluorescence. Most cardiac ganglion neurons expressed NGF transcripts, and 40% contained mature and 47% proNGF immunoreactivity. Guanethidine treatment for 7 days decreased numbers of neurons expressing vesicular acetylcholine transporter, NGF transcripts and NGF immunoreactivity, but did not affect proNGF or vesicular monoamine transporter immunoreactivity. Stellate ganglionectomy had comparable effects on neurochemical phenotype and mature NGF immunoreactivity, but proNGF expression was additionally reduced. These findings show that individual cardiac ganglion neurons display markers of both cholinergic and noradrenergic transmission. Sympathetic noradrenergic innervation maintains levels of cholinergic but not noradrenergic marker protein. Sympathetic innervation also promotes cardiac ganglion neuronal NGF synthesis. Because chemical blockade of all noradrenergic transmission is no more effective than extrinsic sympathectomy, local intrinsic noradrenergic transmission is not a factor in regulating ganglion neuron phenotype.

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