Aminergic and cholinergic afferents to REM sleep induction regions of the pontine reticular formation in the rat

J Comp Neurol. 1993 Apr 22;330(4):543-56. doi: 10.1002/cne.903300410.


Microinjection of cholinergic agonists in a dorsolateral part of the mesopontine tegmentum has been shown to induce a rapid eye movement (REM) sleep-like state. Physiological evidence indicates that not only acetylcholine but also various amine transmitters, including those implicated in behavioral state regulation, affect neuronal activity in this region of the pontine reticular formation. In the present study, sources of select aminergic and cholinergic inputs to this REM sleep induction zone were identified and quantitatively analyzed by using fluorescence retrograde tracing combined with immunofluorescence in the rat. In addition to previously demonstrated cholinergic projections from the pedunculopontine and laterodorsal tegmental nuclei, the REM sleep induction zone received various aminergic inputs that originated in widely distributed regions of the brainstem and hypothalamus. Serotoninergic afferents represented a mean of 44% of all aminergic/cholinergic source neurons projecting to the REM sleep induction zone, which was comparable to the mean percentage of 39% represented by cholinergic afferent neurons. The serotoninergic afferents originated from the raphe nuclei at all brainstem levels, with heavier projections from the pontine than from the medullary raphe nuclei. Unexpectedly, an additional major serotoninergic input was provided by serotoninergic neurons in the nucleus prosupralemniscus (B9). Noradrenergic afferent neurons represented a mean of 14% of all aminergic/cholinergic source neurons, which was only about one-third of the mean percentage of either cholinergic or serotoninergic source neurons. These noradrenergic projection neurons were located not only in the locus ceruleus (8%) but also in the lateral tegmentum, including the A5 (4%) and A7 (2%) cell groups. Histaminergic neurons in the tuberomammillary hypothalamic nucleus represented a minor group of afferent neurons (3%), and a still smaller input came from adrenergic C1 neurons. The pattern of these transmitter-specific afferent connections appeared to be similar regardless of the longitudinal level within the REM sleep induction zone. The present results are consistent with previous behavioral and physiological evidence for a role of the pontine REM sleep induction zone in triggering REM sleep. The regulation of REM sleep induction would be best understood in terms of a state-dependent interplay of cholinergic, serotoninergic, and other inputs all acting convergently upon neurons in the REM sleep-inducing region of the pontine reticular formation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Afferent Pathways / cytology
  • Afferent Pathways / physiology
  • Animals
  • Biogenic Monoamines / physiology*
  • Brain Mapping
  • Fluorescent Antibody Technique
  • Fluorescent Dyes
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Male
  • Microinjections
  • Neurons, Afferent / physiology*
  • Parasympathetic Nervous System / cytology
  • Parasympathetic Nervous System / physiology*
  • Pons / cytology
  • Pons / physiology*
  • Rats
  • Rats, Wistar
  • Reticular Formation / cytology
  • Reticular Formation / physiology*
  • Sleep, REM / physiology*
  • Staining and Labeling
  • Stilbamidines*
  • Sympathetic Nervous System / cytology
  • Sympathetic Nervous System / physiology*


  • 2-hydroxy-4,4'-diamidinostilbene, methanesulfonate salt
  • Biogenic Monoamines
  • Fluorescent Dyes
  • Stilbamidines