Synaptic interactions of substance P immunoreactive nerve terminals in the baro- and chemoreceptor reflexes of the cat

Philip J. Gatti, Machiko Shirahata, Tannis A. Johnson, V. John Massari

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36 Scopus citations


The neurochemical anatomy and synaptic interactions of morphologically identified chemoreceptor or baroreceptor afferents in the nucleus of the solitary tract (NTS) are poorly understood. A substantial body of physiological and light microscopic evidence suggests that substance P (SP) may be a neurotransmitter contained in first order sensory chemo- or baroreceptor afferents, however ultrastructural support for this hypothesis is lacking. In the present report we have traced the central projections of the carotid sinus nerve (CSN) in the cat by utilizing the transganglionic transport of horseradish peroxidase. Medullary tissues including the commissural NTS (cNTS) were processed for the histochemical visualization of transganglionically labeled CSN afferents and for the immunocytochemical detection of SP by dual labeling light and electron microscopic methods. At the light microscopic level, dense bilateral labeling with TMB was found in the tractus solitarius (TS) and cNTS, caudal to the obex. Rostral to the obex, significant ipsilateral TMB labeling was detected in the dorsal, dorso-lateral, and medial subnuclei of the NTS, as well as in the TS. Significant staining of SP immunoreactive processes was detected in most subnuclei of the NTS. The cNTS was examined by electron microscopy. Either HRP or SP were readily identified in single labeled unmyelinated axons, myelinated axons, and nerve terminals in the cNTS. SP immunoreactivity was also identified in unmyelinated axons, myelinated axons, and nerve terminals in the cNTS which were simultaneously identified as CSN primary afferents. These ultrastructural data support the hypothesis that SP immunoreactive first order neurons are involved in the origination of the chemo- and baroreceptor reflexes. Axo-axonic synapses were observed between CSN primary afferent terminals and: (a) unlabeled nerve terminals; (b) other CSN primary afferent terminals; and (c) terminals containing SP. Axo-axonic synapses were also observed between CSN primary afferents which contained SP, and other SP terminals. These observations may mediate the morphological bases for multiple forms of presynaptic inhibition in the cNTS, including those involved in cardiorespiratory integration. In conclusion, our results indicate that SP immunoreactive nerve terminals may be important in both the origination and the modulation of the chemo- and/or baroreceptor reflexes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)133-147
Number of pages15
JournalBrain research
Issue number1-2
StatePublished - Sep 25 1995
Externally publishedYes


  • Baroreceptor
  • Carotid sinus nerve
  • Chemoreceptor
  • Histochemistry
  • Immunocytochemistry
  • Synapse
  • Transganglionic transport
  • Ultrastructure

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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


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