Distribution of phenylethanolamine N‐methyltransferase cell bodies, axons, and terminals in monkey brainstem: An immunohistochemical mapping study

Susan M. Carlton, Christopher N. Honda, Luc Denoroy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Scopus citations


Adrenaline (epinephrine) is an important candidate transmitter in descending spinal control systems. To date intrinsic spinal adrenergic neurons have not been reported; thus adrenergic input is presumably derived from brainstem sites. In this regard, the localization of adrenergic neurons in the brainstem is an important consideration. Maps of adrenergic cell bodies and to a lesser axons and terminal fields have been made in various species, but not in monkeys. Thus, the present study concerns the organization of adrenergic systems in the brainstem of a monkey (Macaca fascicularis) immunohistochemically mapped by means of an antibody to the enzyme phenylethanolamine N‐methyltransferase (PNMT). PNMT‐immunostained cell bodies are distributed throughout the medulla in two principal locations. One concentration of labeled cells is in the dorsomedial medulla and includes the nucleus of the solitary tract (NTS), the dorsal motor nucleus of the vagus (X), and an area ventral to X in a region of the reticular formation (RF) known as the central nucleus dorsalis (CnD) of the medulla. A few scattered cells are observed in the periventricular gray just ventral to the IVth ventricle and on midline in the raphe. The second major concentration of PNMT‐immunostained cells is located in the ventrolateral RF, lateral and dorsolateral to the inferior olive (IO), including some cells in the rostral part of the lateral reticular nucleus (LRN). Terminal fields are located in the NTS, X, area postrema (AP), and the floor of the IVth ventricle in the medulla and pons. A light terminal field is also observed in the raphe, particularly raphe pallidus (RP). A heavy terminal field is present in locus coeruleus (LC). Fibers labeled for PNMT form two major fiber tracts. One is in the dorsomedial RF extending as a well‐organized bundle through the medulla, pons, and midbrain. A second tract is located on the ventrolateral edge of the medulla and caudal pons. Fibers in this tract appear to descend to the spinal cord. A comparison with maps of other catecholamine neurons in primates is discussed, confirming that the distribution of the adrenergic system in monkeys is similar to that described in the human.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)273-285
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Comparative Neurology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 15 1989
Externally publishedYes


  • adrenaline
  • catecholamine
  • primate

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Neuroscience


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