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Keywords:

  • confocal microscopy;
  • image analysis;
  • immunocytochemistry;
  • intracellular staining;
  • monoamines

Abstract

We investigated the possibility that monoaminergic axons make contacts with spinal interneurons which project to motor nuclei and are monosynaptically activated by group II muscle afferents. Interneurons in midlumbar spinal segments of adult cats were characterized electrophysiologically and intracellularly labelled with tetramethylrhodamine dextran. Serotoninergic and noradrenergic axons were identified with immunofluorescence in sections containing labelled cells. Contacts between monoaminergic axons and interneurons were investigated with three-colour confocal laser scanning microscopy and analysed with a computer reconstruction program. Cell bodies and dendritic trees of five cells were reconstructed and putative contacts were plotted. The average number of contacts formed by serotoninergic axons was 140 and the average number of noradrenergic contacts was 38. The majority (95%) of contacts were formed with dendrites; these were distributed over the entire dendritic tree, even on the most distal branches. These findings provide a morphological basis for the modulatory actions of monoamines on premotor spinal interneurons in pathways from group II muscle afferents.