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J Comp Neurol. 1993 Sep 8;335(2):163-72.

Synapses between slowly adapting lung stretch receptor afferents and inspiratory beta-neurons in the nucleus of the solitary tract of cats: a light and electron microscopic analysis.

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II. Department of Physiology, University of Göttingen, Germany.


Previous neuroanatomic and physiologic studies indicated that afferent fibres from slowly adapting pulmonary stretch receptors (SAR) project to the nuclei of the solitary tract and terminate on inspiratory beta-neurons. In the present study we combined electrophysiologic and morphologic approaches to verify the presumed monosynaptic connections between SARs and beta-neurons. Single identified beta-neurons and single identified SAR afferent fibres were labelled intrasomally and intraaxonally, respectively, with horseradish peroxidase (HRP) in the same anesthetized cats. Under the light microscope, we analyzed the morphology of beta-neurons and their dendritic fields and of the terminal projection pattern of fibres from SARs and identified potential synaptic connections between boutons of SAR afferent fibres and the soma and dendrites of beta-neurons. The identified tissue was then processed further for electron microscopic analysis. On average, beta-neurons had 6 primary dendrites that bifurcated 3-8 times. The dendritic trees extended 1.5 mm both rostrocaudally in the ventrolateral nucleus of the solitary tract and medially into the intermediate subnucleus. Axons of beta-neurons curved toward the midline and no collateral branches were evident over its stained length (2.5-3.4 mm). Axodendritic synaptic contacts between SAR fibres and beta-neurons were identified electron microscopically in four of six tissue samples chosen by light microscopy. In addition, we located 2 axodendritic and 2 axosomatic synaptic contacts that were not observed under light microscopic screening. The boutons of SAR fibres contained clear, round vesicles and formed asymmetrical synapses with beta-neurons. Multiple synaptic connections were found between collaterals of a single SAR and single beta-neurons, indicating a dense terminal projection of single SAR afferent fibres onto beta-neurons. These morphologic data prove monosynaptic connections between electrophysiologically identified SAR afferent fibres and beta-neurons.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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