Neurochemistry of nerve fibers apposing sympathetic preganglionic neurons activated by sustained hypotension
Sympathetic preganglionic neurons (SPN) in rat spinal cord were activated by the reflex stimulation of bulbospinal sympathetic neuronal pathways after a nitroprusside-induced hypotension. Hypotension-sensitive SPN, identified by immunoreactivity (IR) to the product of the immediate early gene c-fos and to choline acetyltransferase, were localized in the intermediolateral cell column of thoracic and upper lumbar cord, particularly middle to lower thoracic cord. Putative neurotransmitters, or their markers, in varicose fiber networks around SPN were identified. Nearly all hypotension-sensitive (Fos-IR) SPN were apposed by varicose fibers immunoreactive for tyrosine hydroxylase, serotonin, substance P, or enkephalin. Neuropeptide Y (NPY)- or phenylethanolamine-N-methyl transferase (PNMT)-IR varicose fibers apposed Fos-IR SPN in the upper and middle thoracic spinal cord, but in lower thoracic segments some Fos-IR SPN lacked these appositions. In thoracic segment 12, 51% ± 5% of Fos-IR SPN (n = 9 rats) lacked PNMT contacts and 25% ± 3% of Fos-IR SPN (n = 8 rats) lacked NPY contacts. In contrast to other chemically defined afferents, galanin-IR varicose fibers apposed fewer than half of the Fos-IR SPN in the middle to lower thoracic cord. Neurotransmitters/neuromodulators that might influence the activity of SPN acting in the baroreflex-mediated control of blood pressure have been identified. Uniformity in the neurochemistry of some fibers making connections with Fos-IR SPN, regardless of their segmental origin, suggests that common sets of neurons provide convergent inputs to all hypotension-sensitive SPN. Other fibers show topographic differences in their contacts with Fos-IR SPN, suggesting that subgroups of hypotension-sensitive SPN are targeted by particular neuron groups.