Cells of origin of the trigeminohypothalamic tract in the rat

J Comp Neurol. 1998 Oct 12;400(1):125-44. doi: 10.1002/(sici)1096-9861(19981012)400:1<125::aid-cne9>3.0.co;2-b.


Recent studies have demonstrated that a large number of spinal cord neurons convey somatosensory and visceral nociceptive information directly from cervical, lumbar, and sacral spinal cord segments to the hypothalamus. Because sensory information from head and orofacial structures is processed by all subnuclei of the trigeminal brainstem nuclear complex (TBNC) we hypothesized that all of them contain neurons that project directly to the hypothalamus. In the present study, we used the retrograde tracer Fluoro-Gold to examine this hypothesis. Fluoro-Gold injections that filled most of the hypothalamus on one side labeled approximately 1,000 neurons (best case = 1,048, mean = 718 +/- 240) bilaterally (70% contralateral) within all trigeminal subnuclei and C1-2. Of these neurons, 86% were distributed caudal to the obex (22% in C2, 22% in C1, 23% in subnucleus caudalis, and 18% in the transition zone between subnuclei caudalis and interpolaris), and 14% rostral to the obex (6% in subnucleus interpolaris, 4% in subnucleus oralis, and 4% in subnucleus principalis). Caudal to the obex, most labeled neurons were found in laminae I-II and V and the paratrigeminal nucleus, and fewer neurons in laminae III-IV and X. The distribution of retrogradely labeled neurons in TBNC gray matter areas that receive monosynaptic input from trigeminal primary afferent fibers innervating extracranial orofacial structures (such as the cornea, nose, tongue, teeth, lips, vibrissae, and skin) and intracranial structures (such as the meninges and cerebral blood vessels) suggests that sensory and nociceptive information originating in these tissues could be transferred to the hypothalamus directly by this pathway.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain Mapping*
  • Female
  • Fluorescent Dyes
  • Hypothalamus / cytology
  • Hypothalamus / physiology*
  • Injections
  • Male
  • Neurons / physiology*
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Stilbamidines*
  • Trigeminal Nuclei / cytology
  • Trigeminal Nuclei / physiology*


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