ABSTRACT: It is known that the vagus nerve contains catecholaminergic fibers. However, the origin of these fibers has not been systematically examined. In this study, we addressed this issue using retrograde tracing from the subdiaphragmatic vagus nerve combined with immunocytochemistry. The cervical and thoracic sympathetic trunk ganglia, the nodose ganglia and the dorsal motor nucleus of the vagus nerve were examined following injection of Fluoro-Gold or cholera toxin horseradish peroxidase conjugate into the trunks of the subdiaphragmatic vagus nerve of rats. Numerous retrogradely labeled neurons were seen in the nodose ganglion and the dorsal motor nucleus of the vagus nerve. Very few labeled neurons were found in the sympathetic ganglia (less than 0.06% of the neurons in either superior cervical ganglion or cervicothoracic ganglion were retrogradely labeled). Double labeling with immunofluoresence for catecholamine synthesizing enzymes revealed that: (1) 92% of all Fluoro-Gold retrogradely labeled tyrosine hydroxylase immunoreactive neurons were found in parasympathetic sources (75% in the dorsal motor nucleus of the vagus nerve and 17% in the nodose ganglia), and only 8% in the cervicothoracic sympathetic ganglia; (2) 12% of the retrogradely labeled catecholaminergic neurons in the dorsal motor nucleus of the vagus nerve were also dopamine-beta-hydroxylase immunopositive neurons; (3) 70% of the retrogradely labeled neurons in the sympathetic ganglia were tyrosine hydroxylase immunopositive and 54% of these catecholaminergic neurons contained dopamine-beta-hydroxylase, while 30% of the retrogradely labeled neurons were non-catecholaminergic neurons. These results indicate that catecholaminergic fibers in the abdominal vagus nerve are primarily dopaminergic and of parasympathetic origin, and that only an extremely small number of these fibers, mostly noradrenergic in nature, arise from postganglionic sympathetic neurons.
Journal of the Autonomic Nervous System 06/1999; 76(2-3):108-17.