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Keywords:

  • autonomic regulation;
  • lentivirus;
  • sympathetic preganglionic neurons;
  • phenylethanolamine N-methyltransferase;
  • catecholamines

Abstract

C3 neurons constitute one of three known adrenergic nuclei in the rat central nervous system (CNS). While the adrenergic C1 cell group has been extensively characterized both physiologically and anatomically, the C3 nucleus has remained relatively obscure. This study employed a lentiviral tracing technique that expresses green fluorescent protein behind a promoter selective to noradrenergic and adrenergic neurons. Microinjection of this virus into the C3 nucleus enabled the selective tracing of C3 efferents throughout the rat CNS, thus revealing the anatomical framework of C3 projections. C3 terminal fields were observed in over 40 different CNS nuclei, spanning all levels of the spinal cord, as well as various medullary, mesencephalic, hypothalamic, thalamic, and telencephalic nuclei. The highest densities of C3 axon varicosities were observed in Lamina X and the intermediolateral cell column of the thoracic spinal cord, as well as the dorsomedial medulla (both commissural and medial nuclei of the solitary tract, area postrema, and the dorsal motor nucleus of the vagus), ventrolateral periaqueductal gray, dorsal parabrachial nucleus, periventricular and rhomboid nuclei of the thalamus, and paraventricular and periventricular nuclei of the hypothalamus. In addition, moderate and sparse projections were observed in many catecholaminergic and serotonergic nuclei, as well as the area anterior and ventral to the third ventricle, Lamina X of the cervical, lumbar, and sacral spinal cord, and various hypothalamic and telencephalic nuclei. The anatomical map of C3 projections detailed in this survey hopes to lay the first steps toward developing a functional framework for this nucleus. J. Comp. Neurol. 520:2352–2368, 2012. © 2012 Wiley Periodicals Inc.