Morphological and electrophysiological features of motor neurons and putative interneurons in the dorsal vagal complex of rats and mice

Hong Gao, Nicholas R. Glatzer, Kevin W. Williams, Andrei V. Derbenev, Dan Liu, Bret N. Smith

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

35 Scopus citations


The dorsal motor nucleus of the vagus (DMV) contains preganglionic motor neurons that control viscera along the subdiaphragmatic digestive tract, but may also contain neurons that do not project to the viscera. Neurons that expressed EGFP 60-72 h subsequent to PRV-152 inoculation of vagal terminals in the stomach wall were targeted for whole-cell patch-clamp recording and biocytin filling in transverse brainstem slices from rats and their quantitative morphological and electrophysiological characteristics were compared with uninfected cells. Over 90% of PRV-152 labeled neurons were also labeled subsequent to intraperitoneal injection of FluoroGold, indicating that most were preganglionic motor neurons. In reconstructed neurons with an identifiable axon trajectory, two cellular subtypes were distinguished. The axon projected ventrolaterally from the DMV in 44 of 49 cells and these were likely to be vagal motor neurons. Axons of other neurons ramified within the nucleus tractus solitarius (NTS) or DMV. These cells were smaller and otherwise morphologically distinct from putative motor neurons. Transgenic mice with GFP-expressing inhibitory neurons (i.e., GIN mice) were used to identify a GABAergic subset of DMV neurons. These neurons had locally ramifying axons and formed a morphologically distinct subset of DMV cells, which were similar in size and axon trajectory to GABAergic neurons in the NTS. Most neurons in the DMV therefore possess morphological features of motor neurons, but locally projecting cells and inhibitory neurons with distinct morphological features are also found within the DMV. These cells likely contribute to regulation of vagal function.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)40-52
Number of pages13
JournalBrain Research
StatePublished - Sep 21 2009

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This research was supported by funds from the NIH (DK056132) and NSF (IOB-0518209). We thank L. Enquist for providing the PRV-152, B. Banfield for providing the PRV-614, and R. Tsien for the mRFP1 construct used in making PRV-614.


  • GABA
  • Morphology
  • PRV
  • Patch-clamp
  • Solitarius
  • Vagus

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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


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