c-fos expression in central neurons mediating the arterial baroreceptor reflex
The immediate early gene c-fos is a transcription regulating factor that is widely employed as a marker of neuronal activation. In this study we have used c-fos expression to identify vasomotor neurons in the brainstem and spinal cord that are activated after interventions that alter blood pressure. These neurons are likely to be those that subserve the arterial baroreceptor reflex and maintain blood pressure within a defined range. With the combination of Fos expression and neuronal tracing, we describe the location and central connections of these neurons. The differential expression of Fos in neurons in separate regions of the brainstem and spinal cord, after either hypotensive or hypertensive stimuli in conscious rats, supports current opinion about baroreflex circuitry. The central processes of baroafferent neurons synapse with second order baroreflex neurons in the nucleus tractus solitarius. From this region baroreceptor information is transmitted to neurons in the caudal ventrolateral medulla and then to neurons in the rostral ventrolateral medulla. The sympathetic preganglionic neurons in the intermediolateral column of the thoracolumbar spinal cord are the final crucial site involved in the arterial baroreflex.