Immunoreactivity for the NR1 subunit of the NMDA receptor in spinally-projecting catecholamine and serotonin neurons of the rat ventral medulla
Llewellyn-Smith, Ida Jonassen
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Bulbospinal neurons in the ventral medulla play important roles in the regulation of sympathetic outflow. Physiological evidence suggests that these neurons are activated by N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) and non-NMDA subtypes of glutamate receptors. In this study, we examined bulbospinal neurons in the ventral medulla for the presence of immunoreactivity for the NMDA NR1 subunit, which is essential for NMDA receptor function. Rats received bilateral injections of cholera toxin B into the tenth thoracic spinal segment to label bulbospinal neurons. Triple immunofluorescent labeling was used to detect cholera toxin B with a blue fluorophore, NR1 with a red fluorophore, and either tyrosine hydroxylase or tryptophan hydroxylase with a green fluorophore. In the rostral ventrolateral medulla, NR1 occurred in all bulbospinal tyrosine hydroxylase-positive neurons and 96% of bulbospinal tyrosine hydroxylase-negative neurons, which were more common in sections containing the facial nucleus. In the raphe pallidus, the parapyramidal region, and the marginal layer, 98% of bulbospinal tryptophan hydroxylase-positive neurons contained NR1 immunoreactivity. NR1 was also present in all of the bulbospinal tryptophan hydroxylase-negative neurons, which comprised 20% of bulbospinal neurons in raphe pallidus and the parapyramidal region. These results show that virtually all bulbospinal tyrosine hydroxylase and non-tyrosine hydroxylase neurons in the rostral ventrolateral medulla and virtually all bulbospinal serotonin and non-serotonin neurons in raphe pallidus and the parapyramidal region express NR1, the obligatory subunit of the NMDA receptor. NMDA receptors on bulbospinal neurons in the rostral ventral medulla likely influence sympathoexcitation in normal and pathological conditions.