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Acta Physiol Hung. 2012 Jun;99(2):148-58. doi: 10.1556/APhysiol.99.2012.2.8.

Characterization of the autonomic innervation of mammary gland in lactating rats studied by retrograde transynaptic virus labeling and immunohistochemistry.

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  • 1Semmelweis University, Department of Human Morphology and Developmental Biology, Budapest, Hungary.


The aim of experiments was to characterize the neurons of the autonomic chain that innervates the nipple and the mammary gland of lactating rats using retrograde transynaptic virus labeling and neurotransmitter and neuropeptide immunohistochemistry. Two days after injection of green fluorescence protein labeled virus in two nipples and underlying mammary glands, labeling was observed in the ipsilateral paravertebral sympathetic trunk and the lateral horn. Three days after inoculation the labeling appeared in the brain stem and the hypothalamic paraventricular nucleus. Above the spinal cord the labeling was bilateral. A subpopulation of virus labeled cells in the paraventricular nuclei synthesized oxytocin. Labeled neurons in the lateral horn showed cholinergic immunoreactivity. These cholinergic neurons innervated the paravertebral ganglia where the virus labeled neurons were partially noradrenergic. The noradrenergic fibers in the mammary gland innervate the smooth muscle wall of vessels, but not the mammary gland in rats. The neurons in the lateral horn receive afferents from the brain stem, and paraventricular nucleus and these afferents are noradrenergic and oxytocinergic. New findings in our work: Some oxytocinergic fibers may descend to the neurons of the lateral horn which innervate noradrenergic neurons in the paravertebral sympathetic trunk, and in turn these noradrenergic neurons reach the vessels of the mammary gland.

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