Monosynaptic innervation of trigeminal motor neurones involved in mastication by neurones of the parvicellular reticular formation.
In order to determine whether neurones in the parvicellular reticular formation are in direct synaptic contact with motor neurones innervating masticatory muscles, a combined retrograde and anterograde transport study was carried out in the rat at both light and electron microscopic levels. The animals received injections of the retrograde tracers wheat germ agglutinin conjugated to horseradish peroxidase or cholera toxin B conjugated to horseradish peroxidase into the masticatory muscles and of the anterograde tracer biocytin into the ipsilateral parvicellular reticular formation. The trigeminal motor nucleus was then examined for both anterograde and retrograde labelling in the light and electron microscopes. Retrogradely labelled motor neurones were identified in the trigeminal motor nucleus. They were large and their locations within the nucleus depended on the muscle injected. In addition, terminals anterogradely labelled with the biocytin that was injected in the parvicellular reticular formation were identified throughout the motor nucleus. At the electron microscopic level, the retrogradely labelled cells were found to receive input both from distinct types of unlabelled terminals and from terminals that were anterogradely labelled from the parvicellular reticular formation. The labelled terminals comprised one of the four classes of afferent terminals, being 1-2 microns in diameter and densely packed with spherical vesicles. They formed mostly asymmetrical but also symmetrical synapses with the labelled perikarya and dendrites. Anterogradely labelled terminals were also observed to form both symmetrical and asymmetrical synaptic contacts with unlabelled structures in the motor nucleus. It is concluded that neurones in the parvicellular reticular formation form direct synaptic contact with motor neurones of masticatory muscles. This pathway may represent the anatomical substrate by which the reticular formation exerts at least part of its influence on mastication. Since the parvicellular reticular formation receives input from the substantia nigra pars reticulata, it is possible that this pathway represents a system whereby the basal ganglia directly influence orofacial movement.
1993.J. Comp. Neurol., 336(1):53-65.