Axon terminals synapsing on neurones in the nucleus tractus solitarii (NTS) that originate from the central nucleus of the amygdala (CeA) have been shown to contain γ-aminobutyric acid (GABA) immunoreactivity. Here we investigated whether such terminals also contain somatostatin (SOM), a neuropeptide found in axons distributed throughout the NTS and in somata in the CeA, and known to modulate cardiovascular reflexes when microinjected into the NTS. With fluorescence microscopy, SOM immunoreactivity was seen in the varicosities of some axons throughout the NTS that were anterogradely labelled with biotin dextran amine injected into the CeA. Such varicosities were frequently observed in close proximity to dendrites of NTS neurones that were immunoreactive for the SOM receptor sst2A subtype, and in many cases also for catecholamine synthesising enzymes. In the caudal, cardioregulatory zone of NTS, SOM immunoreactivity was localised by electron microscopic pre-embedding gold labelling to boutons containing dense-cored and clear pleomorphic vesicles and forming symmetrical synapses, mostly onto dendrites. Additional post-embedding gold labelling for GABA suggested that a subpopulation (29%) of GABAergic terminals sampled in this area of NTS contained SOM. Almost all boutons anterogradely labelled from the amygdala were GABA-immunoreactive (-IR) and 21% of these were SOM-IR. A similar proportion of these boutons (22%) formed synapses onto dendrites containing immunoreactivity for the SOM receptor sst2A subtype. These observations provide evidence that some of the GABAergic projection neurones in the CeA that inhibit baroreceptor reflex responses in the NTS in response to fear or emotional stimuli could release SOM, which might modulate the activity of NTS neurones via an action on sst2A receptors.
- Anterograde tracing
- Electron microscopy
- Nucleus of the solitary tract
- Somatostatin sst receptor