Sympathetic and afferent somata projecting in hindlimb nerves and the anatomical organization of the lumbar sympathetic nervous system of the rat

J Comp Neurol. 1988 Sep 15;275(3):460-8. doi: 10.1002/cne.902750310.


The anatomy of the sympathetic pathways from the spinal cord to the lumbar sympathetic trunk and the inferior mesenteric ganglion was studied systematically in the rat. Details of the arrangements of white and gray rami communicantes, sympathetic trunk ganglia, the intermesenteric nerve, and the lumbar splanchnic nerves are summarized. A modified nomenclature for the segmental ganglia of the paravertebral sympathetic chain is proposed. Cell bodies of sensory and sympathetic axons projecting to the skin and skeletal muscle of the rat hindlimb were labeled retrogradely with horseradish peroxidase (HRP) in order to study numbers, segmental distribution, and location of the somata of these neurons quantitatively. HRP was applied to the nerves supplying skeletal muscle (gastrocnemius-soleus, GS), hairy skin (sural, SU; saphenous, SA) and to a mixed nerve (tibial, TI). All sensory somata and 96.4% of the sympathetic cell bodies were located ipsilaterally. Sensory somata were commonly restricted to two adjacent dorsal root ganglia (usually L3-4 for SA; L4-5 for GS, TI; L5-6 for SU). Although the sympathetic somata were more widely distributed rostrocaudally (four to six segments), their maximum was always located one or two segments more cranially than the sensory outflow, i.e., corresponding to the rami communicantes grisei. From the data, it is estimated that 420 sympathetic and 530 afferent neurons project into GS, 590 and 3,610 into SU, 920 and 3,750 into SA, and 1,070 and 5,760 into TI. These absolute neuron numbers are compared with electron microscopic fiber counts from the literature.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adrenergic Fibers / cytology*
  • Adrenergic Fibers / physiology
  • Animals
  • Cell Count
  • Hindlimb / innervation*
  • Hindlimb / physiology
  • Horseradish Peroxidase
  • Neurons, Afferent / cytology*
  • Neurons, Afferent / physiology
  • Rats
  • Rats, Inbred Strains
  • Spinal Cord / cytology*
  • Spinal Cord / physiology


  • Horseradish Peroxidase