Distribution of vesicular glutamate transporters 1 and 2 in the rat spinal cord, with a note on the spinocervical tract

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Abstract

To evaluate whether the organization of glutamatergic fibers systems in the lumbar cord is also evident at other spinal levels, we examined the immunocytochemical distribution of vesicle glutamate transporters 1 and 2 (VGLUT1, VGLUT2) at several different levels of the rat spinal cord. We also examined the expression of VGLUTs in an ascending sensory pathway, the spinocervical tract, and colocalization of VGLUT1 and VGLUT2. Mainly small VGLUT2-immunoreactive varicosities occurred at relatively high densities in most areas, with the highest density in laminae I-II. VGLUT1 immunolabeling, including small and medium-sized to large varicosities, was more differentiated, with the highest density in the deep dorsal horn and in certain nuclei such as the internal basilar nucleus, the central cervical nucleus, and the column of Clarke. Lamina I and IIo displayed a moderate density of small VGLUT1 varicosities at all spinal levels, although in the spinal enlargements a uniform density of such varicosities was evident throughout laminae I-II in the medial half of the dorsal horn. Corticospinal tract axons displayed VGLUT1, indicating that the corticospinal tract is an important source of small VGLUT1 varicosities. VGLUT1 and VGLUT2 were cocontained in small numbers of varicosities in laminae III-IV and IX. Anterogradely labeled spinocervical tract terminals in the lateral cervical nucleus were VGLUT2 immunoreactive. In conclusion, the principal distribution patterns of VGLUT1 and VGLUT2 are essentially similar throughout the rostrocaudal extension of the spinal cord. The mediolateral differences in VGLUT1 distribution in laminae I-II suggest dual origins of VGLUT1-immunoreactive varicosities in this region. J. Comp. Neurol. 497:683-701, 2006. © 2006 Wiley-Liss, Inc.

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