Ionotropic glutamate receptor subunit immunoreactivity of vagal preganglionic neurones projecting to the rat heart

Eric K A Corbett, Sikha Saha, Jim Deuchars, Peter N. McWilliam, Trevor F C Batten

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26 Citations (Scopus)


The ionotropic glutamate receptor subunits expressed by vagal preganglionic neurones in the rat medulla oblongata were examined by using fluorescence immunolabelling combined with retrograde neuronal tracing. The general population of these neurones in the medulla was identified by intraperitoneal injections of Fluorogold and also with choline acetyltransferase antibodies. Cardiac projecting neurones were specifically identified by applying the fluorescent tracer 1,1′-dioctadecyl-3,3,3′,3′-tetramethyl-indocarbocyanine (DiI) to the heart or by injecting cholera toxin B-subunit into the pericardium. Both tracers labelled populations of neurones lying in the dorsal vagal nucleus, intermediate reticular formation and nucleus ambiguus, and when both tracers were applied simultaneously, approximately 50% of cells were dual-labelled. Control experiments established that the labelling was specific for neurones projecting to the heart. Most vagal preganglionic neurones, including those projecting to the heart, irrespective of their location in the medulla, had a similar profile of glutamate receptor immunoreactivity. Labelling of somata for the α-amino-3-hydroxy-5-methyl-4-isoxazolepropionic (AMPA) subunit GluR1 was weak or absent, while labelling with antibodies directed to GluR2, a common sequence of GluR2 and GluR3, and GluR4 was moderate or intense. All neurones studied appeared to express the N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) receptor subunit NR1, and while antibodies recognising the NR2A and NR2B splice variants gave strong labelling, immunoreactivity with a NR2B specific antibody was weaker. Weak to moderate labelling was seen in some neurones using antibodies to the kainate receptor subunits KA2 and GluR5-7. These results are consistent with neurophysiological data indicating the presence of AMPA, NMDA and kainate responses in cardiac vagal preganglionic neurones, and suggest that these neurones are similar to other vagal parasympathetic preganglionic neurones in expressing mainly AMPA receptor subunits GluR2-4.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)105-117
Number of pages13
JournalAutonomic Neuroscience: Basic and Clinical
Issue number2
Early online date9 May 2003
Publication statusPublished - 30 May 2003
Externally publishedYes


  • AMPA receptor
  • NMDA receptor
  • Parasympathetic
  • Retrograde tracing
  • Vagus


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