Intersubnuclear connections within the rat trigeminal brainstem complex

Somatosens Mot Res. 1990;7(4):399-420. doi: 10.3109/08990229009144716.


Prior intracellular recording and labeling experiments have documented local-circuit and projection neurons in the spinal trigeminal (V) nucleus with axons that arborize in more rostral and caudal spinal trigeminal subnuclei and nucleus principalis. Anterograde tracing studies were therefore carried out to assess the origin, extent, distribution, and morphology of such intersubnuclear axons in the rat trigeminal brainstem nuclear complex (TBNC). Phaseolus vulgaris leucoagglutinin (PHA-L) was used as the anterograde marker because of its high sensitivity and the morphological detail provided. Injections restricted to TBNC subnucleus caudalis resulted in dense terminal labeling in each of the more rostral ipsilateral subnuclei. Subnucleus interpolaris projected ipsilaterally and heavily to magnocellular portions of subnucleus caudalis, as well as subnucleus oralis and nucleus principalis. Nucleus principalis, on the other hand, had only a sparse projection to each of the caudal ipsilateral subnuclei. Intersubnuclear axons most frequently traveled in the deep bundles within the TBNC, the V spinal tract, and the reticular formation. They gave rise to a number of circumscribed, highly branched arbors with many boutons of the terminal and en passant types. Retrograde single- or multiple-labeling experiments assessed the cells giving rise to TBNC intersubnuclear collaterals. Horseradish peroxidase (HRP) and/or fluorescent tracer injections into the thalamus, colliculus, cerebellum, nucleus principalis, and/or subnucleus caudalis revealed large numbers of neurons in subnuclei caudalis, interpolaris, and oralis projecting to the region of nucleus principalis. Cells projecting to more caudal spinal trigeminal regions were most numerous in subnuclei interpolaris and oralis. Some cells in lamina V of subnucleus caudalis and in subnuclei interpolaris and oralis projected to thalamus and/or colliculus, as well as other TBNC subnuclei. Such collateral projections were rare in nucleus principalis and more superficial laminae of subnucleus caudalis. TBNC cells labeled by cerebellar injections were not double-labeled by tracer injections into the thalamus, colliculus, or TBNC. These findings lend generality to currently available data obtained with intracellular recording and HRP labeling methods, and suggest that most intersubnuclear axons originate in TBNC local-circuit neurons, though some originate in cells that project to midbrain and/or diencephalon.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Axons / ultrastructure*
  • Brain Mapping
  • Brain Stem / anatomy & histology*
  • Cerebellum / anatomy & histology
  • Female
  • Male
  • Mesencephalon / anatomy & histology
  • Microscopy, Fluorescence
  • Neural Pathways / anatomy & histology
  • Neurons / ultrastructure
  • Rats
  • Rats, Inbred Strains
  • Thalamic Nuclei / anatomy & histology
  • Trigeminal Caudal Nucleus / anatomy & histology
  • Trigeminal Nuclei / anatomy & histology*
  • Trigeminal Nucleus, Spinal / anatomy & histology*