Evidence for divergent projections to the brain noradrenergic system and the spinal parasympathetic system from Barrington's nucleus

Rita J. Valentino, Chen Sheng, Zhu Yan, Gary Aston-Jones

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96 Scopus citations


The present study was designed to determine whether Barrington's nucleus, which lies ventromedial to the locus coeruleus (LC) and projects to the sacral parasympathetic nucleus, is a source of afferent projections to the LC. Restricted injections of the anterograde tracer, biocytin, into Barrington's nucleus labeled varicose fibers that extended from the injection site into the LC. Consistent with this, injections of the retrograde tracers, wheatgerm agglutinin conjugated to horseradish peroxidase coupled to gold particles (WGA-Au-HRP) or fluorescein-conjugated latex heads, into the LC labeled numerous (approximately 10%) Barrington's neurons that were also retrogradely labeled by Fluoro-Gold (FG) injections in the spinal cord. Retrograde tracing from the LC combined with corticotropin-releasing hormone (CRH) immunohistochemistry revealed that at least one third of the retrogradely labeled neurons in Barrington's nucleus were CRH-immunoreactive (CRH-IR). Finally, in triple labeling studies, CRH-Barrington's neurons were consistently observed that were retrogradely labeled from both the LC and spinal cord. These findings implicate Barrington's nucleus as an LC afferent and a source of CRH-IR fibers in the LC. Additionally, the results suggest that some Barrington's neurons diverge to innervate both the spinal cord and the LC, This divergent innervation may serve to coregulate the sacral parasympathetic nervous system and brain noradrenergic system, thus providing a mechanism for coordinating pelvic visceral functions with forebrain activity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-15
Number of pages15
JournalBrain research
Issue number1-2
StatePublished - Sep 2 1996
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Neuroscience(all)
  • Molecular Biology
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Developmental Biology


  • anterograde tracing
  • biocytin
  • corticotropin-releasing hormone
  • locus coeruleus
  • retrograde tracing
  • sacral parasympathetic nucleus


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