The paracervical ganglia of the female rat were studied to elucidate the variety of neural elements in the ganglia. Light and electron microscopy, histochemistry, and immunohistochemistry were employed to reveal subtypes of neurons; small, intensely fluorescent (SIF) cells; and nerve terminals and to examine the relationships between these elements. On the basis of their histochemical markers, four subtypes of principal neurons were identified: acetylcholinesterase (ACHE)-positive, noradrenergic, neuropeptide tyrosine-immunoreactive (NPY-I), and vasoactive intestinal polypeptide-immunoreactive (VIP-I). The NPY-I neurons appeared to be the most numerous and the noradrenergic the least common type of neuron. Four subtypes of chemically coded SIF cells were revealed: catecholamine-containing, NPY-I, and those immunoreactive for calcitonin-gene-related peptide (CGRP-I) and cholecystokinin-octapeptide (CCK-8-I). The SIF cells were present (1) as single cells among and adjacent to principal neurons and (2) as large clusters near the edges of the ganglia or in nearby nerve trunks. Synaptic contacts on SIF cells, or between SIF-cell processes and neurons, were not observed. Seven subtypes of nerve terminals were stained: ACHE-positive, CGRP-I, CCK-8-I, VIP-I, substance P-I, enkephalin-I, and atrial na-triuretic factor-I. Nerve terminals enwrapped the neurons as perineuronal plexuses in synaptic-like relationships.
These results demonstrate that the paracervical ganglia of the female rat are a complex system of neural elements. For example, several classes of chemically coded neurons, SIF cells, and terminals exist in the ganglia. Each of these components contains a number of substances, some of which are putative neurotrans-mitters, which could influence activity in the ganglia or in the effector organs innervated by the ganglia.