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J Comp Neurol. 1981 Mar 10;196(4):571-84.

Fine structure and organization of the infrared receptor relay, the lateral descending nucleus of the trigeminal nerve in pit vipers.


The morphology of the nucleus of the lateral descending tract of V has been studied in species of two genera of pit vipers, cottonmouth moccasin (Agkistrodon piscivorus piscivorus), and rattlesnake (Crotalus ruber and Crotalus horridus horridus). The nucleus is the site of termination of primary afferent neurons forming the infrared receptors in the facial pits. It is located on the external surface of the common descending tract of V and contains somata that range in size from 7 to 22 micrometer in A. p. piscivorus and 7 to 27 micrometer in C. ruber. Electron microscopy reveals that the lateral descending tract contains both A delta and C fibers. Degeneration experiments indicate that the A delta fibers are primary afferents. The source of the C fibers is unknown. The lateral descending nucleus in both the cottonmouth and rattlesnake is fundamentally similar in organization. Afferent terminals containing clear spherical vesicles make synaptic contact with dendritis processes within the main neuropil. These axon terminals are also postsynaptic to boutons containing pleomorphic vesicles and some large dense-core vesicles. The C fibers terminate in a neuropil at the margin of the lateral descending tract on small dendritic processes that appear to come from neurons within the nucleus. This neuropil is found external to the tract in the cottonmouth and internal to the tract in the rattlesnake. The terminals contain clear spherical vesicles and large dense-core vesicles. The singularity of input to this nucleus is apparently reflected in the morphology. This is discussed in relation to the subnucleus caudalis of the mammalian brainstem.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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