Brain Stem Catecholamine Mechanisms in Tonic and Reflex Control of Blood Pressure

Donald J. Reis, Antonio R. Granata, Tong H. Joh, Christopher A. Ross, David A. Ruggiero, Dong H. Park

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Neurons of the lower brain stem maintain resting levels of arterial pressure (AP), mediate reflex responses from cardiopulmonary receptors, and are an important site of the hypotensive actions of a2-adrenergic agonists. Details of the pathways and transmitters that mediate tonic and reflex control of AP are emerging. Afferent fibers of cardiopulmonary receptors in the ninth and tenth nerves terminate bilaterally in the nucleus of the tractus solitarius (NTS). Although some neurons contain substance P, the primary neurotransmitter appears to be the excitatory amino acid L-glutamate (L-glu). Neurons in rostral ventrolateral medulla, which most probably comprise the Cl group of epinephrine neurons, are also critical in AP control. Cl neurons project to innervate cholinergic preganglionic sympathetic neurons in the spinal cord. Stimulation of the Cl area electrically or with L-glu increases AP, while lesions or local injection of the inhibitory amino acid gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) lowers AP to levels comparable to spinal cord transection. Lesions of Cl neurons or their pathways abolish vasodepressor reflexes from baroreceptors and vagal afferents. In contrast, noradrenergic neurons of the caudal ventrolateral medulla, the Al group, project rostrally to innervate, in part, vasopressin neurons of the hypothalamus. Stimulation of Al neurons lowers AP, while lesions or GABA elevates it. We propose that Cl neurons comprise the so-called tonic vasomotor center of the brain stem and also mediate, via a projection from the NTS, the vasodepressor limb of baroreflexes. The NTS-C1 projection may be GABAergic.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)7-15
Number of pages9
Issue number5
StatePublished - 1984
Externally publishedYes


  • Adrenaline neurons
  • Adrenergic
  • Baroreceptor reflexes
  • Blood pressure
  • Noradrenergic neurons
  • Nucleus of the tractus solitaries

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Internal Medicine


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