Neurotransmitter phenotypes of intermediate zone reticular formation projections to the motor trigeminal and hypoglossal nuclei in the rat

J Comp Neurol. 2005 Jul 18;488(1):28-47. doi: 10.1002/cne.20604.


Numerous studies suggest an essential role for the intermediate (IRt) and parvocellular (PCRt) reticular formation (RF) in consummatory ingestive responses. Although the IRt and PCRt contain a large proportion of neurons with projections to the oromotor nuclei, these areas of the RF are heterogeneous with respect to neurotransmitter phenotypes. Glutamatergic, GABAergic, cholinergic, and nitrergic neurons are all found in the PCRt and IRt, but the projections of neurons with these phenotypes to the motor trigeminal (mV) and hypoglossal nucleus (mXII) has not been fully evaluated. In the present study, after small injections of Fluorogold (FG) into mV and mXII, sections were processed immunohistochemically to detect retrogradely labeled FG neurons in combination with the synthetic enzymes for nitric oxide (nitric oxide synthase) or acetylcholine (choline acetyltransferase) or in situ hybridization for the synthetic enzyme for GABA (GAD65/67) or the brainstem vesicular transporter for glutamate (VGLUT2). In three additional cases, FG injections were made into one motor nucleus and cholera toxin (subunit b) injected in the other to determine the presence of dual projection neurons. Premotor neurons to mXII (pre-mXII) were highly concentrated in the IRt. In contrast, there were nearly equal proportions of premotor-trigeminal neurons (pre-mV) in the IRt and PCRt. A high proportion of pre-oromotor neurons were positive for VGLUT2 (pre-mXII: 68%; pre-mV: 53%) but GABAergic projections were differentially distributed with a greater projection to mV (25%) compared to mXII (8%). Significant populations of cholinergic and nitrergic neurons overlapped pre-oromotor neurons, but there was sparse double-labeling (<10%). The IRt also contained a high proportion of neurons that projected to both mV and MXII. These different classes of premotor neurons in the IRt and PCRt provide a substrate for the rhythmic activation of lingual and masticatory muscles.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Acetylcholine / metabolism
  • Animals
  • Brain Mapping*
  • Consummatory Behavior / physiology
  • Feeding Behavior / physiology
  • Glutamic Acid / metabolism
  • Hypoglossal Nerve / cytology
  • Hypoglossal Nerve / metabolism
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • In Situ Hybridization
  • Male
  • Neural Pathways / cytology
  • Neural Pathways / metabolism*
  • Neurons / cytology
  • Neurons / metabolism*
  • Neurotransmitter Agents / classification
  • Neurotransmitter Agents / metabolism*
  • Nitric Acid / metabolism
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Reticular Formation / cytology
  • Reticular Formation / metabolism*
  • Tissue Distribution
  • Trigeminal Nuclei / cytology
  • Trigeminal Nuclei / metabolism*
  • gamma-Aminobutyric Acid / metabolism


  • Neurotransmitter Agents
  • Glutamic Acid
  • Nitric Acid
  • gamma-Aminobutyric Acid
  • Acetylcholine