Glutamate in the spinal sympathetic intermediolateral nucleus: localization by light and electron microscopy

Shaun F. Morrison, Janie Callaway, Teresa A. Milner, Donald J. Reis

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80 Scopus citations


Glutamate immunoreactivity was examined in the sympathetic intermediolateral nucleus (IML) of the thoraic spinal cord using an antibody (Hepler et al., J. Histochem. Cytochem., 36 (1988) 13-22) to hemocyanin-conjugated l-glutamate and the peroxidase-antiperoxidase (PAP) technique. Glutamate labeling was seen in punctate varicosities throughout the IML, in IML neurons and their dendritic processes extending into the lateral funiculus, and diffusely in the IML neuropil. Glutamate labeling was unaffected by preabsorption of the antibody with a conjugate of l-aspartate (100 μg/ml) to bovine serum albumin (BSA), but was abolished by similar treatment with a conjugate of l-glutamate (1.7 μg/ml) to BSA. Glutamate immunoreactivity in the IML was eliminated caudal to T3 spinal transection, while that in the dorsal horn was preserved. Ultrastructural examination of the IML revealed that glutamate was localized within round clear vesicles in axon terminals ranging in diameter from 0.6 to 2.5 μm, and containing several mitochondria, but no dense-core vesicles. Glutamate-containing terminals made primarily asymmetric synapses on small dendrites of IML neurons. These synapses were usually enveloped by processes of astrocytic glia which could also contain glutamate immunoreactivity. The findings provide an anatomic substrate for glutamatergic excitation of sympathetic nerve discharge through a descending spinal pathway terminating the IML. These daata support the hypothesis that sympathoexcitation elicited by stimulation of the rostral ventrolateral medulla may be mediated by a direct glutamatergic pathway to the IML.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)5-15
Number of pages11
JournalBrain research
Issue number1
StatePublished - Nov 27 1989
Externally publishedYes


  • Astrocytic glia
  • Immunocytochemistry
  • Rostral ventrolateral medulla
  • Spinal cord
  • Sympathetic nerve discharge
  • Sympathetic preganglionic neuron

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)
  • Molecular Biology
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Developmental Biology


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