Efferent connections of the A1 noradrenergic cell group: a DBH immunohistochemical and PHA-L anterograde tracing study

Exp Neurol. 1990 Sep;109(3):308-22. doi: 10.1016/s0014-4886(05)80022-6.


Immunohistochemical localization of the catecholamine biosynthetic enzymes tyrosine hydroxylase (TH), dopamine beta-hydroxylase (DBH), and phenylethanolamine N-methyltransferase (PNMT) was employed to reveal the anatomical organization of the A1 noradrenergic cell group in the caudal ventrolateral medulla oblongata of the rat. Subsequently, the supraspinal efferent axonal projections of A1 were investigated with a view to elucidating the anatomical substrates underlying its postulated function in central fluid and cardiovascular homeostasis. Within the caudal medulla, DBH-positive/PNMT-negative (noradrenergic) neurons were observed extending bilaterally through the ventrolateral medullary reticular formation from upper cervical spinal cord levels to the level of the area postrema. At the rostral pole of A1, its neurons intermingled with PNMT-immunoreactive perikarya of the more rostrally situated C1 adrenergic cell group. Discrete injections of the anterogradely transported plant lectin Phaseolus vulgaris leucoagglutinin (PHA-L) into A1 resulted in terminal labeling in a number of presumptive efferent target sites including the nucleus of the solitary tract, rostral ventrolateral medulla, dorsal parabrachial nucleus, Kolliker-Fuse nucleus, central grey, dorsomedial nucleus of the hypothalamus, perifornical region, zona incerta, lateral hypothalamus, paraventricular nucleus of the hypothalamus, supraoptic nucleus, bed nucleus of the stria terminalis, and organum vasculosum of the lamina terminalis. Tissue sections adjacent to those reacted for PHA-L were processed immunohistochemically for DBH to determine if anterogradely labeled terminals were localized in regions that demonstrated appropriate immunoreactivity. The majority of regions in which PHA-L terminal labeling was present also exhibited moderate to intense DBH activity. These experiments provide neuroanatomical evidence for direct efferent pathways from the A1 noradrenergic cell group to a number of supraspinal sites that have been reliably implicated in the neural circuitry underlying the central regulation of fluid and cardiovascular homeostasis. Furthermore, the results suggest a selective anatomical interrelation between A1 and sites in the basal forebrain and hypothalamus in which vasopressinergic neurons have been previously demonstrated. It is postulated that the noradrenergic A1 projections observed in this investigation represent the morphological substrate through which A1 exerts a significant influence on cardiovascular regulatory mechanisms.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain / enzymology*
  • Dopamine beta-Hydroxylase / metabolism*
  • Efferent Pathways / physiology
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Male
  • Medulla Oblongata / cytology
  • Medulla Oblongata / metabolism
  • Medulla Oblongata / physiology*
  • Norepinephrine / physiology*
  • Phenylethanolamine N-Methyltransferase / metabolism
  • Phytohemagglutinins*
  • Rats
  • Rats, Inbred Strains
  • Synaptic Transmission
  • Tyrosine 3-Monooxygenase / metabolism


  • Phytohemagglutinins
  • leukoagglutinins, plants
  • Tyrosine 3-Monooxygenase
  • Dopamine beta-Hydroxylase
  • Phenylethanolamine N-Methyltransferase
  • Norepinephrine