Lateralisation of projections from the rostral ventrolateral medulla to sympathetic preganglionic neurons in the rat

Elizabeth A. Moon, Ann K. Goodchild, Paul M. Pilowsky*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

26 Citations (Scopus)


Spinally projecting sympathoexcitatory neurons in the rostral ventrolateral medulla (RVLM), synapse with sympathetic preganglionic neurons (SPN) and regulate the activity of sympathetic nerves that control the heart, blood pressure and the adrenal medulla (AM). However, the degree of lateralization of the bulbospinal projections to SPN innervating specific targets is poorly understood. Three approaches were used in this study. Anterograde tracer was iontophoresed into a pressor site in the RVLM (left or right) and retrograde tracer injected into the superior cervical ganglion (SCG, right) and the AM (left). Close appositions between anterogradely labelled axons and retrogradely labelled SCG- or AM-SPN were counted. Projections to the SCG were bilateral. Projections to the AM were markedly ipsilateral. In the second part, retrograde tracers were injected unilaterally into the region of the intermediolateral cell column at spinal segment T2 or T8 on one side and the number of labelled neurons in the RVLM counted. The results from each level of injection were similar showing that 63-64% of the neurons were ipsilateral. Responses to glutamate microinjection into the RVLM on adrenal nerve (left) and superior cervical nerve (left) activity were measured. The ratio of the nerve responses was the same even when different sides of the RVLM were injected. The anterograde data strongly suggest that the RVLM projections to AM-SPN are predominantly ipsilateral. Although other experimental approaches also attempted to investigate lateralization, the retrograde data target different and functionally heterogeneous pools of SPN that may mask the ipsilateral projection to the AM. Similarly, chemical stimulation of the RVLM will excite not only monosynaptic projections but also polysynaptic projections that may also mask the predominant ipsilateral monosynaptic projection to AM.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)181-190
Number of pages10
JournalBrain Research
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 8 Mar 2002
Externally publishedYes


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