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J Comp Neurol. 1985 Mar 15;233(3):308-32.

Rat medulla oblongata. II. Dopaminergic, noradrenergic (A1 and A2) and adrenergic neurons, nerve fibers, and presumptive terminal processes.


The aim of this study was to determine the anatomical relationships between catecholaminergic neurons and cytoarchitectonically defined nuclei in the caudal medulla oblongata. Previous studies have demonstrated the existence of noradrenergic cell bodies (designated as the A1 and A2 cell groups) in the caudal medulla oblongata of the rat (Dahlström and Fuxe, '64), including the nTS. There is no information currently available with regard to details of the distribution of these noradrenergic neurons in the functionally distinct subnuclei of the medulla oblongata. In this study the location of catecholamine-synthesizing enzymes was examined in the serial sections of the caudal medulla oblongata of the rat: tyrosine hydroxylase (TH), dopamine-beta-hydroxylase (DBH), and phenylethanolamine N-methyl transferase (PNMT). The immunoperoxidase method of Sternberger ('79) was used to demonstrate the location of immunoreactive neurons, nerve fibers, and presumptive terminal processes. This was followed by Nissl staining of the same sections to localize accurately the immunoreactivity. Noradrenergic neurons (TH- and DBH-positive and PNMT-negative) were localized in a number of subnuclei of the nucleus of the tractus solitarius (nTS), the area postrema (ap), and in the dorsal motor nucleus of the vagus (dmnX). The distribution of these noradrenergic cells was different at different rostrocaudal levels. In addition, adrenergic neurons (TH-, DBH-, and PMNT-positive) were identified dorsal to the tractus solitarius (TS), in the dorsal strip region (ds), the periventricular region (PVR), the dorsal parasolitarius region (dPSR), and the dmnX (rostral to obex). In addition, dopaminergic neurons (TH-positive and DBH- and PNMT-negative) were found in the ap and dmnX. The A1 cell group in the ventrolateral medulla consisted almost exclusively of noradrenergic neurons (TH- and DBH-positive and PNMT-negative). These results indicate that in the rat the A2 cell group is a mixed population of catecholaminergic neurons that are localized in well-defined regions of the dorsal medulla oblongata. The distribution of these neurons is very specific both in terms of rostrocaudal levels and cytoarchitectonic subdivisions of regions of the medulla known to be involved in central autonomic control. This supports the hypothesis that monoaminergic neurons in the dorsal medulla play important roles in the central regulation of visceral function.

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