• ultrastructure;
  • blood pressure;
  • juxtacellular;
  • biotinamide;
  • C1 neuron;
  • reticulospinal neurons


Agonists of the μ-opioid receptor (MOR) produce profound hypotension and sympathoinhibition when microinjected into the rostral ventrolateral medulla (RVL). These effects are likely to be mediated by the inhibition of adrenergic and other presympathetic vasomotor neurons located in the RVL. The present ultrastructural studies were designed to determine whether these vasomotor neurons, or their afferents, contain MORs. RVL bulbospinal barosensitive neurons were recorded in anesthetized rats and filled individually with biotinamide by using a juxtacellular labeling method. Biotinamide was visualized by using a peroxidase method and MOR was identified by using immunogold localization of an antipeptide antibody that recognizes the cloned MOR, MOR1. The subcellular relationship of MOR1 to RVL neurons with fast- or slow-conducting spinal axons was examined by electron microscopy. Fast- and slow-conducting cells were not morphologically distinguishable. Immunogold-labeling for MOR1 was found in all RVL bulbospinal barosensitive neurons examined (9 of 9). MOR1 was present in 52% of the dendrites from both types of cells and in approximately half of these dendrites the MOR1 was at nonsynaptic plasmalemmal sites. A smaller portion of biotinamide-labeled dendrites (16%) from both types of cells were contacted by MOR1-containing axons or axon terminals. Together, these results suggest that MOR agonists can directly influence the activity of all types of RVL sympathoexcitatory neurons and that MOR agonists may also influence the activity of afferent inputs to these cells. The heterogenous distribution of MORs within individual RVL neurons indicates that the receptor is selectively targeted to specific pre- and postsynaptic sites. J. Comp. Neurol. 433:34–47, 2001. © 2001 Wiley-Liss, Inc.