Chemical coding and central projections of gastric vagal afferent neurons

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Vagal afferents that innervate gastric muscle or mucosa transmit distinct sensory information from their endings to the nucleus of the tractus solitarius (NTS). While these afferent subtypes are functionally distinct, no neurochemical correlate has been described and it is unknown whether they terminate in different central locations. This study aimed to identify gastric vagal afferent subtypes in the nodose ganglion (NG) of ferrets, their terminal areas in NTS and neurochemistry for isolectin-B4 (IB4) and calcitonin gene-related peptide (CGRP). Vagal afferents were traced from gastric muscle or mucosa and IB4 and CGRP labelling assessed in NG and NTS. 7 ± 1% and 6 ± 1% of NG neurons were traced from gastric muscle or mucosa respectively; these were more likely to label for CGRP or for both CGRP and IB4 than other NG neurons (P<0.01). Muscular afferents were also less likely than others to label with IB4 (P<0.001). Less than 1% of NG neurons were traced from both muscle and mucosa. Central terminals of both afferent subtypes occurred in the subnucleus gelatinosus of the NTS, but did not overlap completely. This region also labelled for CGRP and IB4. We conclude that while vagal afferents from gastric muscle and mucosa differ little in their chemical coding for CGRP and IB4, they can be traced selectively from their peripheral endings to NG and to overlapping and distinct regions of NTS. Thus, there is an anatomical substrate for convergent NTS integration for both types of afferent input.

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