Specific innervation of guinea-pig superior cervical ganglion cells by preganglionic fibres arising from different levels of the spinal cord.
1. The synaptic contribution of preganglionic nerve fibres arising from the last cervical (C8) and the first seven thoracic spinal cord segments (T1-T7) to neurones of the guinea-pig superior cervical ganglion has been studied by means of intracellular recording during ventral root stimulation in vitro. 2. The majority of neurones received innervation from the middle segments (T2 and T3) of the length of spinal cord from which preganglionic fibres derive; an intermediate number of ganglion cells were innervated by fibres from the segments adjacent to these (T1, T4, and T5), and relatively few neurones by fibres from the most rostral and caudal segments supplying innervation to the ganglion (C8, T6 and T7). 3. Each neurone received preganglionic terminals from multiple thoracic segments (range 1-7, mean = 4-0). The estimated minimum number of preganglionic fibres contacting each neurone was 10, on average. 4. As a rule, the spinal segments innervating a neurone were contiguous. Thus we rarely encountered neurones innervated by segments located both rostrally and caudally to a segment which failed to provide innervation. 5. Neurones tended to be innervated predominantly by axons arising from a single spinal segment, with adjacent segments contributing a synaptic influence that diminished as a function of their distance from the dominant segment. All segments provided dominant innervation to at least some neurones. 6. Stimulating the ventral roots of C8-T7 in vivo showed that the axons arising from each segment produced a characteristic pattern of peripheral effects. Thus different populations of neurones in the superior cervical ganglion of the guinea-pig are innervated by preganglionic axons from different levels of the spinal cord, as originally suggested by Langley (1892) for the cat, dog, and rabbit. 7. On the basis of our in vitro studies we conclude that underlying the specificity of innervation of neurones of the superior cervical ganglion that can be inferred from in vivo experiments is a tendency for individual neurones to be innervated in a systematically graded fashion by a contiguous subset of the eight spinal segments which provide innervation to the ganglion.
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