Dendritic morphology of cardiac related medullary neurons defined by circuit-specific infection by a recombinant pseudorabies virus expressing beta-galactosidase

J Neurovirol. 1995 Dec;1(5-6):359-68. doi: 10.3109/13550289509111025.


The transneuronal herpesvirus tracer, pseudorabies virus (PRV) was used to determine the dendritic architecture of cardiac-related neurons. We constructed a derivative of the Bartha strain of PRV called PRV-BaBlu, that carries the lacZ gene of E. coli. Expression of beta-galactosidase by this recombinant virus enabled us to define the dendritic morphology of motoneurons and interneurons that innervate the heart. beta-galactosidase antigen filled dendritic processes that were clearly revealed by antibodies to beta-galactosidase. In contrast, the standard enzymatic reaction for detection of beta-galactosidase activity stained the cell soma well, but was inferior for labeling dendrites. Following PRV-BaBlu cardiac injection, infected neurons were clearly defined and labeled dendrites could be traced for long distances, sometimes greater than 800 microns from the cell body. Labeled dendrites of cardiomotor neurons primarily located in the nucleus ambiguus (NA) were extensive and sometimes intertwined with dendrites from other labeled motoneurons. Dendrites of labeled neurons in the dorsal motor nucleus of the vagus (DMV) typically extended in the mediolateral direction in the transverse plane. Transynaptically labeled interneurons interposed between the cardiorespiratory region of the nucleus tractus solitarius (NTS) and the NA were primarily located in the NA region and the reticular arc, the area between the DMV and NA. These interneurons had long dendrites extending along the reticular arc in the transverse plane. The dendritic arborizations of infected cardiac-related neurons in the NTS were variable in extent. We conclude that antibody detection of beta-galactosidase expressed by PRV-BaBlu after infection of neural cardiac circuits provides a superior method to define the dendrites and dendritic fields of cardiac-related motoneurons and interneurons.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Dendrites / virology*
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Viral / physiology
  • Genes, Reporter
  • Heart / innervation*
  • Herpesvirus 1, Suid / chemistry
  • Herpesvirus 1, Suid / enzymology
  • Herpesvirus 1, Suid / genetics*
  • Interneurons / virology
  • Male
  • Motor Neurons / virology
  • Nodose Ganglion / cytology
  • Nodose Ganglion / virology
  • Rats
  • Rats, Wistar
  • Recombinant Proteins / genetics
  • Solitary Nucleus / cytology
  • Solitary Nucleus / virology
  • Vagus Nerve / cytology
  • Vagus Nerve / virology
  • beta-Galactosidase / genetics*
  • beta-Galactosidase / metabolism


  • Recombinant Proteins
  • beta-Galactosidase