The anatomy and innervation of the mammalian pineal gland
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The parenchymal cells of the mammalian pineal gland are the hormone-producing pinealocytes and the interstitial cells. In addition, perivascular phagocytes are present. The phagocytes share antigenic properties with microglial and antigen-presenting cells. In certain species, the pineal gland also contains neurons and/or neuron-like peptidergic cells. The peptidergic cells might influence the pinealocyte by a paracrine secretion of the peptide. Nerve fibers innervating the mammalian pineal gland originate from perikarya located in the sympathetic superior cervical ganglion and the parasympathetic sphenopalatine and otic ganglia. The sympathetic nerve fibers contain norepinephrine and neuropeptide Y as neurotransmitters. The parasympathetic nerve fibers contain vasoactive intestinal peptide and peptide histidine isoleucine. Recently, neurons in the trigeminal ganglion, containing substance P, calcitonin gene-related peptide, and pituitary adenylate cyclase-activating peptide, have been shown to project to the mammalian pineal gland. Finally, nerve fibers originating from perikarya located in the brain containing, for example, GABA, orexin, serotonin, histamine, oxytocin, and vasopressin innervate the pineal gland directly via the pineal stalk. Biochemical studies have demonstrated numerous receptors on the pinealocyte cell membrane, which are able to bind the neurotransmitters located in the pinealopetal nerve fibers. These findings indicate that the mammalian pinealocyte can be influenced by a plethora of neurotransmitters.
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