Topography of efferent vagal innervation of the rat gastrointestinal tract


The gastrointestinal territories innervated by the gastric, celiac, and hepatic abdominal vagi were identified in rats with selective branch vagotomies by means of 1) anterograde tracing with the carbocyanine dye DiI injected into the dorsal motor nucleus and 2) measurement of cervical vagal stimulation-induced motility responses throughout the gut axis. Presence of DiI-labeled vagal terminals in the myenteric plexus and evoked motility responses were well correlated across the sampled gastrointestinal (GI) sites. In animals with only the two gastric branches intact, the entire stomach and the most proximal duodenum showed significant motility responses and were densely innervated, having DiI-labeled vagal terminals in almost every ganglion. The hepatic branch was found to primarily innervate the duodenum, with minor projections to the distal antral stomach and the intestines. The two celiac branches were found to almost exclusively innervate the jejunum, ileum, cecum and entire colon, and, together with the other vagal branches, the duodenum. Therefore, while there is some degree of specific innervation by the abdominal vagal branches of the oral-to-anal gut axis, which could be called "viscerotopic," the considerably overlapping innervation of the duodenum does not satisfy a viscerotopy criterion and needs further functional analysis.

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