• Ventral horn;
  • Dorsal horn;
  • Raphe nuclei;
  • Bulbospinal tract;
  • Immunofluorescence;
  • Peroxidase antiperoxidase technique;
  • In situ hybridization;
  • Coexistence;
  • Macaca fascicularis


The distribution of enkephalin (ENK)-like immunoreactivity (LI) in spinal cord and medulla oblongata of cat and gray monkey (Macaca fascicularis) was studied by use of immunofluorescence and peroxidase antiperoxidase (PAP)techniques. Possible coexistence between ENK- and 5-hydroxytryptamine (5-HT)-LI was also analyzed with double labeling immunofluorescence. Furthermore, in situ hybridization was used to demonstrate cell bodies in the brain stem expressing mRNA encoding for ENK.

ENK-immunoreactive (IR) axonal varicosities and fibers were demonstrated throughout the spinal cord gray matter, with the highest density in the superficial dorsal horn, the area around the central canal, the intermediolateral cell column, the sacral parasympathetic nucleus, and in Onuf's nucleus. In the monkey ventral horn, ENK-IR varicose fibers could in some cases be demonstrated in very close apposition to cell bodies. A low degree of co-localization between ENK- and 5-HT-LI was seen in the spinal cord of both species. Still, fibers containing both compounds could as a rule be demonstrated in every section studied. The highest degree of coexistence was encountered in the motor nucleus of the ventral horn. Six weeks after a low thoracic spinal cord transection a decreased staining for ENK-LI was demonstrated in the ventral horn motor nucleus, whereas other parts of the spinal cord appeared unaffected.

In the brain stem of cats after colchicine treatment, ENK-LI was found in a majority of the 5-HT-IR cell bodies in the raphe nuclei (nucleus raphe magnus, pallidus and obscurus) and in the lateral reticular nucleus (rostroventrolateral reticular nucleus). In cat not pretreated with colchicine, a few weakly stained ENK-IR cell bodies could be found in the midline raphe nuclei and in the lateral reticular nucleus with the PAP technique. In the monkey brain stem without colchicine treatment, using the PAP technique, heavily stained ENK-IR cell bodies could be seen in the lateral reticular nucleus while no convincing mRNA signal could be found over cell bodies in the raphe nuclei.

It is concluded that part of the ENKergic innervation of the cord in both species derives from supraspinal or suprasegmental levels. In the cat there is a discrepancy between the low degree of coexistence with 5-HT observed in terminals in the spinal cord and the extensive coexistence in presumed cell bodies of origin in the medulla of colchicine treated animals. One possible explanation for this is that the expression of ENK in raphe neurons under normal circumstances is very low but that colchicine induces an upregulation of the synthesis of this peptide. © Wiley-Liss, Inc.