Morphological and electrophysiological features of motor neurons and putative interneurons in the dorsal vagal complex of rats and mice

Brain Res. 2009 Sep 29;1291:40-52. doi: 10.1016/j.brainres.2009.07.024. Epub 2009 Jul 18.


The dorsal motor nucleus of the vagus (DMV) contains preganglionic motor neurons that control viscera along the subdiaphragmatic digestive tract, but may also contain neurons that do not project to the viscera. Neurons that expressed EGFP 60-72 h subsequent to PRV-152 inoculation of vagal terminals in the stomach wall were targeted for whole-cell patch-clamp recording and biocytin filling in transverse brainstem slices from rats and their quantitative morphological and electrophysiological characteristics were compared with uninfected cells. Over 90% of PRV-152 labeled neurons were also labeled subsequent to intraperitoneal injection of FluoroGold, indicating that most were preganglionic motor neurons. In reconstructed neurons with an identifiable axon trajectory, two cellular subtypes were distinguished. The axon projected ventrolaterally from the DMV in 44 of 49 cells and these were likely to be vagal motor neurons. Axons of other neurons ramified within the nucleus tractus solitarius (NTS) or DMV. These cells were smaller and otherwise morphologically distinct from putative motor neurons. Transgenic mice with GFP-expressing inhibitory neurons (i.e., GIN mice) were used to identify a GABAergic subset of DMV neurons. These neurons had locally ramifying axons and formed a morphologically distinct subset of DMV cells, which were similar in size and axon trajectory to GABAergic neurons in the NTS. Most neurons in the DMV therefore possess morphological features of motor neurons, but locally projecting cells and inhibitory neurons with distinct morphological features are also found within the DMV. These cells likely contribute to regulation of vagal function.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Axons / physiology
  • Brain Stem / cytology
  • Brain Stem / physiology*
  • Cell Count
  • Dendrites / physiology
  • Dendritic Spines / physiology
  • Fluorescent Dyes
  • Image Processing, Computer-Assisted
  • Interneurons / cytology*
  • Interneurons / metabolism
  • Interneurons / physiology*
  • Lysine / analogs & derivatives
  • Male
  • Membrane Potentials / physiology
  • Mice
  • Mice, Transgenic
  • Motor Neurons / cytology*
  • Motor Neurons / physiology*
  • Patch-Clamp Techniques
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Stomach / innervation*
  • Synapses / physiology
  • Vagus Nerve / physiology
  • gamma-Aminobutyric Acid / genetics
  • gamma-Aminobutyric Acid / metabolism


  • Fluorescent Dyes
  • gamma-Aminobutyric Acid
  • biocytin
  • Lysine