Pharmacological manipulation of the ventrolateral pontine reticular formation (vIPRF) of rats has an anticonvulsant effect in the maximal electroshock model of epilepsy. This study presents three anatomical experiments that determine the efferent projections from this region likely to mediate this anticonvulsant effect. In the first, the anterograde tracer biotinylated dextran amine (BDA) was injected into the vIPRF. A strong projection to the ventromedial medullary reticular formation (vmMRF) was revealed which continued only weakly to the spinal cord. In the second experiment, double-label procedures were used to indicate whether the BDA-labelled terminals from the vIPRF make contacts with neurons in vmMRF, retrogradely labelled with cholera-toxin B subunit from the lumbar spinal cord. Sections of the vmMRF were examined by: (i) light microscopy which showed significant overlap between terminals from vIPRF and retrogradely-labelled reticulospinal cells; (ii) confocal microscopy which showed labelled terminals in close association with reticulospinal cell bodies; and (iii) electron microscopy which showed vIPRF terminals making synaptic contact with reticulospinal neurons. Finally, immunohistochemical procedures in combination with anterograde tracing revealed that significant numbers of terminals labelled from vIPRF were also positive for markers of glutamatergic or GABAergic neurotransmission. This suggests that the projection from the vIPRF to the vmMRF is likely to include several different functional components. These connections could represent a final critical link of an anticonvulsant circuit that originates in the dorsal midbrain and projects via relays in the vIPRF and the vmMRF to interact with the low-level motor circuitry in the spinal cord.
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