Development of the cyto- and chemoarchitectural organization of the rat nucleus of the solitary tract
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The nucleus of the solitary tract (NST) is the major visceral sensory nucleus in the brainstem. The development of the rat nucleus of the solitary tract was followed during late prenatal and early postnatal life in order to determine when subnuclear organization and chemoarchitectural features develop. In Nissl-stained sections, the nucleus of the solitary tract becomes visible as a distinct cluster of cells by about E17. Between E17 and E19, a profound change in the Nissl-stained appearance of the nucleus occurred, so that by E19 all the subnuclei were discernible. Acetylcholinesterase activity in the developing NST showed an early period of rapid differentiation (E15 to E17), while by E19 the basic adult pattern of distribution of this enzyme had already been achieved. The subnuclei of the NST began to show clear differential staining for nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide phosphate diaphorase at about the same time as reactivity for that enzyme first appeared (E19). With respect to calbindin- and calretinin-immunoreactive neurons within the nucleus, many of the chemoarchitectural features associated with these two markers were obvious even by late fetal life. For example, in the central subnucleus, a strongly labelled, dense population of calbindin-immunoreactive neurons was present from E17; while in calretinin-immunoreacted material, this subnucleus was prominent because of its immunonegativity also from E17. Nevertheless, the total number of calbindin- and calretinin-immunoreactive neurons in the NST did not peak until late postnatal life. Tyrosine hydroxylase immunoreactive neurons were visible from E15, began differentiation by E17 and were distributed in a similar pattern to the adult from E19. Substance P immunoreactivity in the NST was also very similar to the adult pattern by E19. Many of these immunochemical and histochemical markers indicate a similar pattern of development, i.e. a rapid period of differentiation until E19, by which time a relatively stable adult-like pattern has been attained. The present findings indicate that many of the cyto- and chemoarchitectural features of this nucleus are present well before birth, by which time the nucleus must serve vitally important functions such as relaying information for control of respiration and the circulation.
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