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J Comp Neurol. 1996 Dec 23;376(4):631-52.

Distribution of dopamine immunoreactivity in the rat, cat and monkey spinal cord.

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Department of Anatomy, Erasmus University Medical School, Rotterdam, The Netherlands.


In the present study, the distribution of dopamine (DA) was identified light microscopically in all segments of the rat, cat, and monkey spinal cord by using immunocytochemistry with antibodies directed against dopamine. Only fibers and (presumed) terminals were found to be immunoreactive for DA. Strongest DA labeling was present in the sympathetic intermediolateral cell column (IML). Strong DA labeling, consisting of many varicose fibers, was found in all laminae of the dorsal horn, including the central canal area (region X), but with the exception of the substantia gelatinosa, which was only sparsely labeled, especially in rat and monkey. In the motoneuronal cell groups DA labeling was also strong and showed a fine granular appearance. The sexually dimorphic cremaster nucleus and Onuf's nucleus (or its homologue) showed a much stronger labeling than the surrounding somatic motoneurons. In the parasympathetic area at sacral levels, labeling was moderate. The remaining areas, like the intermediate zone (laminae VI-VIII), were only sparsely innervated. The dorsal nucleus (column of Clarke) showed the fewest DA fibers, as did the central cervical nucleus, suggesting that cerebellar projecting cells were avoided by the DA projection. In all species, the descending fibers were located mostly in the dorsolateral funiculus, but laminae I and III also contained many rostrocaudally oriented fibers. It is concluded that DA is widely distributed within the spinal cord, with few differences between species, emphasizing that DA plays an important role as one of the monoamines that influences sensory input as well as autonomic and motor output at the spinal level.

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