• GABA;
  • enkephalin;
  • cholera toxin B subunit;
  • gene expression


The rostral ventrolateral medulla (RVLM) contains neurons critical for cardiovascular, respiratory, metabolic, and motor control. The activity of these neurons is controlled by inputs from multiple identified brain regions; however, the neurochemistry of these inputs is largely unknown. Gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) and enkephalin tonically inhibit neurons within the RVLM. The aim of this study was to identify all brain regions that provide GABAergic or enkephalinergic input to the rat RVLM. Neurons immunoreactive for cholera toxin B (CTB-ir), retrogradely transported from the RVLM, were assessed for expression of glutamic acid decarboxylase (GAD67) or preproenkephalin (PPE) mRNA using in situ hybridization. GAD67 mRNA was expressed in CTB-ir neurons in the following regions: the nucleus of the solitary tract (NTS, 6% of CTB-ir neurons), area postrema (AP, 8%), caudal ventrolateral medulla (17%), midline raphe (40%), ventrolateral periaqueductal gray (VLPAG, 15%), lateral hypothalamic area (LHA, 25%), central nucleus of the amygdala (CeA, 77%), sublenticular extended amygdala (SLEA, 86%), interstitial nucleus of the posterior limb of the anterior commissure (IPAC, 56%), bed nucleus of the stria terminals (BNST, 59%), and medial preoptic area (MPA, 53%). PPE mRNA was expressed in CTB-ir neurons in the following regions: the NTS (14% of CTB-ir neurons), midline raphe (26%), LHA (22%), zona incerta (ZI, 15%), CeA (5%), paraventricular nucleus (PVN, 13%), SLEA (66%), and MPA (26%). Thus, limited brain regions contribute GABAergic and/or enkephalinergic input to the RVLM. Multiple neurochemically distinct pathways originate from these brain regions projecting to the RVLM. J. Comp. Neurol. 521:213–232, 2013. © 2012 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.