The central nucleus of the amygdala is involved in the modulation of autonomic, somatic and endocrine functions, as well as behavioural responses to stressful stimuli. Anatomical and physiological studies have suggested that this nucleus sends projections to the nucleus of the solitary tract, the primary site of termination of vagal and glossopharyngeal afferent fibres in the brain stem. To determine the neurochemical nature of the amygdaloid input to the nucleus of the solitary tract, anterograde tracing with biotinylated dextran amine was combined with post-embedding immunogold labelling for GABA and glutamate immunoreactivities and with pre-embedding labelling for the vesicular GABA transporter. Following injection of biotin dextran amine into the central nucleus of the amygdala, anterogradely labelled axons and varicosities were found throughout the rostrocaudal extent of the nucleus of the solitary tract, particularly in the medial, ventral and ventrolateral subnuclei. The anterogradely labelled terminals were found to make predominantly symmetrical synaptic contacts with dendrites, and occasionally onto cell bodies and dendritic spines, and to contain immunoreactivity for GABA and for the vesicular GABA transporter. Immunolabelling of serial sections with antibodies to glutamate showed that none of these axon terminals contained high enough densities of gold particle labelling to suggest that they contained other than low metabolic levels of glutamate immunoreactivity. These results provide conclusive evidence for a GABAergic pathway from the central nucleus of the amygdala to the nucleus of the solitary tract. This GABAergic projection may provide a substrate for inhibition of lower brain stem visceral reflexes, including baroreflex inhibition, through which the central nucleus of the amygdala could participate in cardiovascular regulation related to emotional behaviour and the defence reaction. (C) 2000 IBRO.
- Anterograde tracing
- Nucleus of the solitary tract
- Vesicular GABA transporter