Serotonin innervation patterns differ among the various medullary motoneuronal groups involved in upper airway control

Exp Brain Res. 1993;95(1):100-10. doi: 10.1007/BF00229659.


The purpose of this study was to test our hypothesis that the serotoninergic system plays a significant role in airway obstruction during sleep, by focusing on patterns of serotoninergic innervation of the medullary motoneurons involved in upper airway control. We used the combined techniques of retrograde labelling of motoneurons with unconjugated cholera toxin B and immunohistochemistry with antiserum against serotonin (5-HT). The retrograde tracers were injected into posterior cricoarytenoid (PCA), cricothyroid (CT), and genioglossal (GG) muscles of the cat. Motoneurons retrogradely labelled from PCA were identified ipsilateral to the injection site in the caudal part of nucleus ambiguus (NA). Serotonin immunoreactive terminals surrounded their somata and proximal dendrites, suggesting a strong influence of serotonin on the PCA-labelled motoneurons. Motoneurons retrogradely labelled from CT were located ipsilaterally in two distinct groups in the rostral NA and in the retrofacial nucleus (RFN). Selective peripheral nerve section revealed that the CT-labelled motoneurons in the NA had axons in the recurrent laryngeal nerve, whereas the other CT-labelled motoneurons in the RFN were innervated through the superior laryngeal nerve. In the RFN, the pattern of 5-HT innervation in relation to the CT-labelled motoneurons was analogous to that observed with the PCA-labelled motoneurons. In the NA, however, 5-HT terminals made few contacts with the CT-labelled motoneurons, although a dense network of 5-HT terminals was present in the surrounding region. In the GG-labelled motoneuron region of the hypoglossal nucleus, 5-HT terminals were apposed to distal dendrites, not to the soma, indicating less effect of serotonin on GG than on PCA activity. The present results demonstrated that the patterns of 5-HT innervation vary according to the type of motoneurons and their projections to the upper airway.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Axonal Transport
  • Brain Stem / anatomy & histology
  • Brain Stem / cytology
  • Cats
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Medulla Oblongata / anatomy & histology*
  • Medulla Oblongata / cytology
  • Medulla Oblongata / physiology*
  • Motor Neurons / cytology*
  • Motor Neurons / physiology*
  • Muscle, Smooth / innervation
  • Serotonin / analysis
  • Serotonin / physiology*
  • Trachea / innervation*
  • Vagus Nerve / anatomy & histology


  • Serotonin