Structure‐function relationships in the rat brainstem subnucleus interpolaris: II. Low and high threshold trigeminal primary afferents

Mark F. Jacquin, Richard A. Stennett, William E. Renehan, Robert W. Rhoades

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Prior studies indicate that vibrissa, guard hair, hairy skin, mucosa, and nociceptive trigeminal primary afferents give rise to morphologically distinct terminal arbors in the medullary dorsal horn. The present study describes the extent to which similar structure‐function relationships exist in the rostrally adjacent subnucleus interpolaris (SpVi). Seventy‐three axons were physiologically characterized and visualized by standard intra‐axonal HRP labeling techniques. They responded to guard hair (GH) or vibrissa (VIB) deflection; gentle pressure applied to hairy skin (HS), glabrous skin (GS), lingual mucosa (LM), or an incisor (PER); or a noxious pinch of the face (NOX). Response latencies to trigeminal ganglion shocks were equivalent for all categories with low threshold receptive fields (mean = 0.44 ms), and these were significantly shorter than those of fibers with high threshold NOX receptive fields (mean = 0.88 ms). All axons gave off transversely oriented collaterals into SpVi with rostrocaudal discontinuities in their arbors. Collaterals were topographically organized. Axons innervating the rostral mouth and face terminated medially, and those that supplied the caudal face innervated successively more lateral SpVi. The dorsal face was represented in the ventral SpVi, whereas the ventral face and mouth were represented more dorsally. This transverse topography extended largely throughout the rostrocaudal extent of SpVi. VIB, GH, GS, and LM collaterals had similar configurations with circumscribed arbors. HS, PER, and NOX arbors had a “stringy” shape without a clear terminal focus, save for the fact that PER and NOX collaterals often terminated in rostrally displaced substantia gelatinosa at the level of the caudal SpVi. Analysis of variance, considering only those data from mystacial VIB, GH, and HS fibers, indicated significant differences for all of the following measures: number of collaterals, number of boutons per collateral, arbor area, arbor circumference, and arbor circularity (form factor). A similar analysis, considering all fiber types, indicated significant differences for only the following measures: number of collaterals, arbor area, and arbor circumference. Individual group comparisons between the more heavily sampled functional categories indicated that GH afferents had significantly.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)107-130
Number of pages24
JournalJournal of Comparative Neurology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 1988


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