, Volume 31, Issue 8-9, pp 693-717

Parvalbumin in respiratory neurons of the ventrolateral medulla of the adult rat

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Abstract

A column of parvalbumin immunoreactive neurons is closely associated with the location of respiratory neurons in the ventrolateral medulla of the rat. The majority (66%) of bulbospinal neurons in the medullary ventral respiratory column (VRC) that were retrogradely labeled by tracer injections in the phrenic nucleus were also positive for parvalbumin. In contrast, only 18.8% of VRC neurons retrogradely labeled after a tracer injection in the VRC, also expressed parvalbumin. The average cross-sectional area of VRC neurons retrogradely labeled after VRC injections was 193.8 μm2 ± 6.6 SE. These were significantly smaller than VRC parvalbumin neurons (271.9 μm2 ± 12.3 SE). Parvalbumin neurons were found in the Bötzinger Complex, the rostral ventral respiratory group (VRG), and the caudal VRG, areas which all contribute to the bulbospinal projection. In contrast, parvalbumin neurons were sparse or absent in the preBötzinger Complex and in the vicinity of the retrotrapezoid nucleus, areas that have few bulbospinal projections. Parvalbumin was rarely colocalized within Neurokinin-1 receptor positive (NK1R) VRC neurons, which are found in the preBötzinger complex and in the anteroventral part of the rostral VRG. Parvalbumin neurons in the Bötzinger Complex and rostral VRG help define the rostrocaudal extent of these regions. The absence of parvalbumin neurons from the intervening preBötzinger complex also helps establish the boundaries of this region. Regional boundaries described in this manner are in good agreement with earlier physiological and anatomical studies. Taken together, the distributions of parvalbumin, NK1R and bulbospinal neurons suggest that the rostral VRG may be subdivided into distinct, anterodorsal, anteroventral, and posterior subdivisions.