Chazal G - Baude A - Barbe A - Puizillout JJ


Journal of neurocytology


This electron microscopic study, based on serial section analysis, describes the synaptic organization of the interstitial subnucleus of the nucleus of the solitary tract and identifies the terminals of the vagal primary afferents utilizing degeneration and HRP transport. The interstitial subnucleus contains sparsely scattered cell bodies, numerous dendrites and axon terminals, and bundles of unmyelinated and myelinated axons. The cell bodies which are small in diameter have an organelle poor cytoplasm and a large invaginated nucleus. Axon terminals can be classified into two main types according to their vesicular shape. The first type contains clear, round vesicles and can be further subdivided into two subgroups on the basis of their morphology and the size of their vesicles. In the first subgroup the terminals are small, contain a few mitochondria and their vesicles are densely packed with an homogeneous size. In the second subgroup the terminals which vary from small to large, contain many mitochondria and contain round vesicles which are heterogeneous in size. The second main terminal type consists of axon terminals containing pleomorphic vesicles which are associated with asymmetrical or symmetrical synaptic contacts on dendrites. Axo-axonic contacts are present in the interstitial subnucleus. In general, the presynaptic axon terminals contain pleomorphic vesicles and the postsynaptic elements contain round vesicles of varying size. In some dendrites, identified by the presence of ribosomes, groups of round and/or pleomorphic vesicles are found associated with synaptic contacts. These dendrites are presynaptic to conventional dendrites and postsynaptic to axon terminals. After removal of the nodose ganglion, degenerative alterations are seen only at the caudal and middle levels of the interstitial subnucleus. Degeneration occurs in a few myelinated axons and in axon terminals which usually contain a mixture of small and larger round, clear vesicles. After HRP injection into the vagus nerve, the HRP reaction product is visible in axon terminals filled with clear, round vesicles which are heterogeneous in size. The labelled axon terminals establish single or multiple synaptic contacts. This study demonstrates that terminals of vagal primary afferents consist principally of terminals of the second subgroup. The morphology of these terminals are compared to primary afferents in the brainstem and spinal cord.

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