Propriospinal input to thoracolumbar sympathetic nuclei from cervical and lumbar lamina I neurons in the cat and the monkey

J Comp Neurol. 1993 May 22;331(4):517-30. doi: 10.1002/cne.903310407.


The possibility that specific thermoreceptive and nociceptive influences on sympathetic outflow are conveyed directly to spinal sympathetic regions by lamina I neurons was investigated anatomically with the immunofluorescent PHA-L technique in the cat and the cynomolgus monkey. Iontophoretic injections made with physiological guidance were restricted to lamina I or to laminae I-II in the cervical (C6-8) or lumbar (L6-7) enlargement. Bilateral (symmetric) terminal arborizations were observed (with an ipsilateral predominance) in the intermediolateral, intermediomedial, and intervening regions of the thoracolumbar intermediate zone. In serial horizontal sections, patches of terminal labeling appeared at regular longitudinal intervals in the intermediolateral region. Longitudinally coursing fibers that had multiple varicosities and gave off small terminal branches were observed in the intermediolateral and the intermediomedial regions. Mediolateral strips of labeling that extended from labeling in the intermediolateral region to labeling in the intermediomedial region occurred at fairly regular longitudinal intervals. Because the longitudinal distribution of these terminations corresponds very well with the characteristic (ladder-like) longitudinal pattern of organization of the neuropil of the thoracolumbar sympathetic nuclei, i.e., the principal part of the intermediolateral cell column, the central autonomic n., and the intervening n. intercalatus, it is inferred that these lamina I terminations occur within these nuclei. After cervical injections, the labeling was most dense in the upper thoracic T2-4 spinal cord segments in both the cat and the monkey; labeling was also present in the T10-12 segments. After lumbar injections, labeling in the cat was located in the L4 segment; labeling in the monkey was present in the T4-6 and T10-12 segments. The labeling obtained was much more dense in the monkey than in the cat. These observations reveal a spinal lamina I projection that could provide a direct pathway for the somatosympathetic reflex effects of thermal and noxious stimuli. Considered together with reports that lamina I and the sympathetic nuclei both receive descending input from certain key autonomic regions, this result emphasizes the importance of lamina I for homeostasis, in addition to its probable roles in behavioral arousal, affect, and sensation. These observations thus support the proposed concept that lamina I processes and distributes in a functionally specific manner the sensory input relevant to the physiological status of the tissues and organs of the entire organism.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cats / anatomy & histology*
  • Fluorescent Antibody Technique
  • Injections, Spinal
  • Lumbosacral Region
  • Macaca fascicularis / anatomy & histology*
  • Neck
  • Neurons / physiology*
  • Phytohemagglutinins
  • Sympathetic Nervous System / physiology*
  • Thorax


  • Phytohemagglutinins
  • leukoagglutinins, plants