Glutamate, γ-aminobutyric acid and tachykin-inimmunoreactive synapses in the cat nucleus tractus solitarii

Sikha Saha, Trevor F C Batten, Peter N. Mcwilliam

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72 Citations (Scopus)


Neurophysiological and pharmacological evidence suggests that glutamate, γ-aminobutyric acid and tachykinins (substance P and neurokinin A) each have a role in cardiovascular regulation in the nucleus tractus solitarii. This study describes the ultrastructural relationships between nerve terminals immunoreactive for these substances in the nucleus tractus solitarii of the cat using post-embedding immunogold (single and double) labelling techniques on sections of tissue embedded in LR White resin. The technique combines a high specificity of labelling with good ultrastructural and antigenic preservation. Glutamate-immunoreactive terminals, recognized by their high density of gold particle labelling compared to the mean tissue level of labelling, accounted for about 40% of all synaptic terminals in the region of the nucleus tractus solitarii analysed (medial, dorsal, interstitial, gelatinosus and dorsolateral subnuclei). They appeared to comprise several morphological types, but formed mainly asymmetrical synapses, most often with dendrites of varying size, and contained spherical clear vesicles together with fewer dense-cored vesicles. Substance P- and neurokinin A-immunoreactive terminals were fewer in number (9% of all terminals) but similar in appearance, with the immunoreaction restricted to the dense-cored vesicles. Analysis of serial- and double-labelled sections showed a co-existence of substance P and neurokinin A-immunoreactivity in 21% of glutamate-immunoreactive terminals. Immunoreactivity for γ-aminobutyric acid was found in 33% of all terminals in the nucleus tractus solitarii. These predominantly contained pleomorphic vesicles and formed symmetrical synapses on dendrites and somata. Possible sites of axo-axonic contact by γ-aminobutyric acid-immunoreactive terminals onto glutamateor tachykinin-immunoreactive terminals were rare, but examples of adjacent glutamate and γ-aminobutyric acid-immunoreactive terminals synapsing on the same dendritic profile were frequent. These results provide an anatomical basis for a γ-aminobutyric acid mediated inhibition of glutamatergic excitatory inputs to the nucleus tractus solitarii at a post-synaptic level.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)55-74
Number of pages20
JournalJournal of Neurocytology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 1995
Externally publishedYes


  • Clear Vesicle
  • Symmetrical Synapse
  • Asymmetrical Synapse
  • Glutamate
  • Nucleus Tractus Solitarii


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