Rostral ventrolateral medulla: a source of the glutamatergic innervation of the sympathetic intermediolateral nucleus

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

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108 Scopus citations


To determine whether the sympathoexcitatory projection from the rostral ventrolateral medulla (RVL) to the sympathetic intermediolateral nucleus (IML) of the spinal cord might use glutamate as an excitatoru transmitter, we performed a dual-label, transport and immunocytochemical ultrastructural study. Axon terminals within the IML were examined to determine whether anterogradely transported Phaseolus vulgaris-leucoagglutinin (PHA-L) following injections into the RVL, was colocalized with glutamate immunoreactivity using an antibody to hemocyanin-conjugated l-glutamate (Hepler et al., J. Histochem. Cytochem., 36 (1988) 13-22). Transported PHA-L was visualized with the peroxidase-antiperoxidase technique while glutamate-like immunoreactivity was localized within the same section of the thoracic spinal cord with immunoautoradiography. By light microscopy, PHA-L immunoreactivity was found within a plexus of fine fibers and varicose processes localized to the IML. Silver grains indicative of glutamate immunoreactivity were concentrated over the IML and also over the superficial layers of the dorsal horn. Electron microscopic analysis revealed PHA-L immunoreactivity in axons and axon terminals within the IML. They ranged in diameter from 0.5 to 2.0 μm, contained numerous small clear and 0-3 large, dense-core vesicles, and formed primarily asymmetric synaptic contacts on small dendrites of IML neurons. Some of the PHA-L immunoreactive terminals making asymmetric (excitatory) synaptic contacts on the small dendrites of IML neurons also contained glutamate-like immunoreactivity. We conclude that at least a portion of the input to the IML from the RVL uses glutamate as its transmitter. These findings provide ultrastructural support for the hypothesis that the release of glutamate onto neurons in the IML plays a key role in the regulation of arterial pressure by reticulospinal, sympathoexcitatory pathways from the RVL.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)126-135
Number of pages10
JournalBrain research
Issue number1
StatePublished - Oct 18 1991
Externally publishedYes


  • Autoradiography
  • Electron microscopy
  • Excitatory amino acid
  • Immunocytochemistry
  • Phaseolus vulgaris-leucoagglutinin
  • Spinal cord
  • Sympathetic nerve discharge
  • Sympathetic preganglionic neurons

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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


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