The expression of the immediate early gene, c-fos, was used to determine the distribution of brainstem neurons activated by stimulation of the distal hypoglossal nerve (XIIn) trunk. The traditional view of the XIIn is one of purely motor function; however, stimulation of XIIn excites neurons in the trigeminal spinal nucleus. The rationale for this study was to use c-fos expression as a marker for postsynaptic activity to define the pattern of brainstem neurons excited by XIIn stimulation. It was further hypothesized that if the afferent fibers that course within XIIn supply deep lingual tissues, then c-fos expression after direct stimulation of XIIn should display a pattern similar to that seen after chemical irritant stimulation of the deep tongue muscle. In barbiturate-anesthetized male rats electrical stimulation of XIIn produced a significant increase in Fos-positive neurons in the dorsal paratrigeminal nucleus (dPa5) and laminae I-II of caudal subnucleus caudalis (Vc) and upper cervical dorsal horn. Mustard oil injection into the deep tongue muscle also produced an increase in c-fos expression in dPa5; however, the highest density of expression occurred in laminae I-II at the dorsomedial aspect of rostral Vc. Both electrical stimulation of XIIn and mustard oil stimulation of the deep tongue increased c-fos expression in the caudal ventrolateral medulla, an autonomic relay nucleus. These results suggest that one site of innervation for afferent fibers that travel within the distal trunk of XIIn is to supply the deep tongue muscle and to terminate in the dPa5. A second group of postsynaptic neurons activated only by XIIn stimulation was located in lamina I-II in caudal portions of Vc and upper cervical dorsal horn, a laminar distribution consistent with a role for XIIn afferents in sensory or autonomic aspects of lingual function.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
This study was supported in part by grants DE± 12758(D.A.B.)andDE± 11995(J.W.H.)formthe National Institutes of Health.
- Hypoglossal nerve
- Immediate early gene
- Trigeminal system