Paraventricular hypothalamic nucleus: axonal projections to the brainstem

J Comp Neurol. 2010 May 1;518(9):1460-99. doi: 10.1002/cne.22283.


The paraventricular hypothalamic nucleus (PVH) contains many neurons that innervate the brainstem, but information regarding their target sites remains incomplete. Here we labeled neurons in the rat PVH with an anterograde axonal tracer, Phaseolus vulgaris leucoagglutinin (PHAL), and studied their descending projections in reference to specific neuronal subpopulations throughout the brainstem. While many of their target sites were identified previously, numerous new observations were made. Major findings include: 1) In the midbrain, the PVH projects lightly to the ventral tegmental area, Edinger-Westphal nucleus, ventrolateral periaqueductal gray matter, reticular formation, pedunculopontine tegmental nucleus, and dorsal raphe nucleus. 2) In the dorsal pons, the PVH projects heavily to the pre-locus coeruleus, yet very little to the catecholamine neurons in the locus coeruleus, and selectively targets the viscerosensory subregions of the parabrachial nucleus. 3) In the ventral medulla, the superior salivatory nucleus, retrotrapezoid nucleus, compact and external formations of the nucleus ambiguous, A1 and caudal C1 catecholamine neurons, and caudal pressor area receive dense axonal projections, generally exceeding the PVH projection to the rostral C1 region. 4) The medial nucleus of the solitary tract (including A2 noradrenergic and aldosterone-sensitive neurons) receives the most extensive projections of the PVH, substantially more than the dorsal vagal nucleus or area postrema. Our findings suggest that the PVH may modulate a range of homeostatic functions, including cerebral and ocular blood flow, corneal and nasal hydration, ingestive behavior, sodium intake, and glucose metabolism, as well as cardiovascular, gastrointestinal, and respiratory activities.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Axons / metabolism
  • Axons / ultrastructure
  • Brain Stem / anatomy & histology*
  • Brain Stem / metabolism
  • Catecholamines / metabolism
  • Female
  • Histocytochemistry
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Male
  • Microscopy, Confocal
  • Neural Pathways / anatomy & histology*
  • Neural Pathways / metabolism
  • Paraventricular Hypothalamic Nucleus / anatomy & histology*
  • Phytohemagglutinins / metabolism
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley


  • Catecholamines
  • Phytohemagglutinins
  • phytohemagglutinin L protein, Phaseolus vulgaris