Neuronal connections of the paratrigeminal nucleus: a topographic analysis of neurons projecting to bulbar, pontine and thalamic nuclei related to cardiovascular, respiratory and sensory functions

Auton Neurosci. 2001 Dec 10;94(1-2):14-24. doi: 10.1016/s1566-0702(01)00338-1.


The paratrigeminal nucleus, which receives sensory input from trigeminal, glossopharyngeal and vagus nerves, has efferent projections to bulbar, pontine and possibly to thalamic structures associated with nociception, thermoregulation and cardiovascular control. Anterograde neuronal tracers were used to study paratrigeminal efferent connections. Labeled terminal fibers, evidencing bilateral efferent paratrigeminal projections were observed in the medial and caudal solitary tract (sol), lateral reticular nucleus (LRt), ambiguus nucleus (Amb), rostroventrolateral reticular nucleus (RVL), while ipsilateral projections were found in the parabrachial (PB) nuclei and ventral portion of the ventral posteromedial thalamic nucleus (VPM). This extends other findings that describe paratrigeminal projections. Retrograde neuronal transport tracers, microinjected in the defined projection areas were used to map distribution of the paratrigeminal neurons originating different efferent connections. Microinjection of latex microspheres containing fluorescein or rhodamine and Fluoro-gold in the ventral VPM, PB, RVL, Amb, LRt and NTS revealed sets of labeled paratrigeminal nucleus neurons respectively organised in a rostral-caudal sequence. The largest extent of the paratrigeminal nucleus (medial portion) contained neurons projecting to the RVL/Amb, structures associated with cardiovascular regulation. The data show a segmented topographical organization of the nucleus, with different sets of neurons within delimited segments, projecting to neuronal structures associated with different functions. This points to a complex and extensive role for the paratrigeminal nucleus in the integration of somatosensory reflexes related to cardiovascular, respiratory and pain mechanisms. The nucleus may act as a medullary relay interposed between sensory afferents and different structures related to homoeostatic functions.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cardiovascular Physiological Phenomena*
  • Image Processing, Computer-Assisted
  • Interneurons / physiology*
  • Male
  • Neural Pathways / anatomy & histology*
  • Neural Pathways / cytology
  • Neural Pathways / physiology*
  • Pons / anatomy & histology*
  • Pons / cytology
  • Pons / physiology*
  • Rats
  • Rats, Wistar
  • Respiratory Physiological Phenomena*
  • Sensation / physiology*
  • Spinal Cord / anatomy & histology*
  • Spinal Cord / cytology
  • Spinal Cord / physiology*
  • Stereotaxic Techniques
  • Terminology as Topic
  • Thalamic Nuclei / anatomy & histology*
  • Thalamic Nuclei / cytology
  • Thalamic Nuclei / physiology*
  • Trigeminal Nuclei / anatomy & histology*
  • Trigeminal Nuclei / cytology
  • Trigeminal Nuclei / physiology*