Somatostatin is known to modulate the activity of neurones of the medulla oblongata involved in autonomic regulation, mediated through five subtypes of G protein-coupled receptors, sst1-sst5. This study utilises reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction and immunohistochemistry to investigate the expression of sst1-sst5, including the sst2A/sst2B isoforms, in the main autonomic centres of the rat medulla oblongata: nucleus of the solitary tract (NTS), dorsal motor vagal nucleus (DVN) and ventrolateral medulla (VLM). In tissue from the cerebral cortex, hippocampus and cerebellum all subtype mRNAs were detected, but sst5 signals were weak, and the distribution of sst1-sst5 immunoreactivities was consistent with previous reports. In the medulla, all sst mRNAs gave clear amplicons and subtype-specific antibodies produced characteristic patterns of immunolabelling, frequently in areas of somatostatinergic innervation. Anti-sst1 labelled beaded fibres, sst2A, sst2B, sst4 and sst5 gave somatodendritic labelling and sst3 labelled presumptive neuronal cilia. In NTS tissue, sst1, sst2A, sst4 and sst5 mRNAs were strongly expressed, while in VLM tissue sst1, sst2A, sst2B and sst4 predominated. In both areas of the medulla, neurones with intense somatodendritic sst2A immunoreactivity were principally catecholaminergic in phenotype, being double labelled for tyrosine hydroxylase (TH) and phenylethanolamine-N-methyl-transferase (PNMT). Some TH/PNMT positive neurones were also sst2B and sst4 immunoreactive. Cholinergic parasympathetic neurones in the DVN were immunoreactive for the sst2A, sst2B, sst4 and sst5 subtypes. These observations are consistent with the proposal that multiple somatostatin receptor subtypes, possibly combining as heterodimers, are involved in mediating the modulatory effects of somatostatin on autonomic function, including cardiovascular, respiratory and gastrointestinal reflex activity.
- Nucleus of the solitary tract
- Polymerase chain reaction
- Sst subtype
- Ventrolateral medulla