Descending projections of the posterior nucleus of the hypothalamus: Phaseolus vulgaris leucoagglutinin analysis in the rat

J Comp Neurol. 1996 Oct 28;374(4):607-31. doi: 10.1002/(SICI)1096-9861(19961028)374:4<607::AID-CNE9>3.0.CO;2-5.


No previous report in any species has systematically examined the descending projections of the posterior nucleus of the hypothalamus (PH). The present report describes the descending projections of the PH in the rat by using the anterograde anatomical tracer, Phaseolus vulgaris leucoagglutinin. PH fibers mainly descend to the brainstem through two routes: dorsally, within the central tegmental tract, and ventromedially, within the mammillo-tegmental tract and its caudal extension, ventral reticulo-tegmental tracts. PH fibers were found to distribute densely to several nuclei of the brainstem. They are (from rostral to caudal) 1) lateral/ ventrolateral regions of the diencephalo-mesopontine periaqueductal gray (PAG); 2) the peripeduncular nucleus; 3) discrete nuclei of pontomesencephalic central gray (dorsal raphe nucleus, laterodorsal tegmental nucleus, and Barrington's nucleus); 4) the longitudinal extent of the central core of the mesencephalic through meduallary reticular formation (RF); 5) the ventromedial medulla (nucleus gigantocellularis pars alpha, nucleus raphe magnus, and nucleus raphe pallidus); 6) the ventrolateral medulla (nucleus reticularis parvocellularis and the rostral ventrolateral medullary region); and 7) the inferior olivary nucleus. PH fibers originating from the caudal PH distribute much more heavily than those from the rostral PH to the lower brainstem. The PH has been linked to the control of several important functions, including respiration, cardiovascular activity, locomotion, antinociception, and arousal/wakefulness. It is likely that descending PH projections, particularly those to the PAG, the pontomesencephalic RF, Barrington's nucleus, and parts of the ventromedial and ventrolateral medulla, serve a role in a PH modulation of complex behaviors involving integration of respiratory, visceromotor, and somatomotor activity.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain Mapping
  • Brain Stem / cytology
  • Brain Stem / physiology*
  • Histocytochemistry
  • Hypothalamus, Posterior / anatomy & histology
  • Hypothalamus, Posterior / cytology
  • Hypothalamus, Posterior / physiology*
  • Male
  • Neural Pathways / cytology
  • Neural Pathways / physiology
  • Phytohemagglutinins
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley


  • Phytohemagglutinins
  • leukoagglutinins, plants