C-terminal tail of β-adrenergic receptors: immunocytochemical localization within astrocytes and their relation to catecholaminergic neurons in N. tractus solitarii and area postrema

Chiye Aoki, Virginia M. Pickel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


β-Adrenergic receptors (βAR) in the medial nuclei of tractus solitarii (m-NTS) and area postrema (AP) may bind to catecholamines released from neurons, whereas only the AP has fenestrated capillaries allowing access to circulating catecholamines. Since varied autonomic responses are seen following βAR activation of the dorsal vagal complex, including the m-NTS and AP, we hypothesized that there might be a cellular basis for varied responses to βAR stimulation that depends pn the differential access to circulating catecholamines. Therefore, we comparatively examined the ultrastructural localization of the βAR in relation to catecholaminergic neurons in these regions. An antibody directed against the C-terminal tail (amino acids 404-418) of hamster β-adrenergic receptor (βAR404) was used in this study. The localization of βAR404 was achieved by the avidin-biotin peroxidase complex (ABC) technique in combination with a pre-embed immunogold labeling method to localize tyrosine hydroxylase (TH), the catecholamine-synthesizing enzyme. Within m-NTS and at subpostremal border, labeling for βAR404 was evident along the intracellular surface of plasma membranes of small, apparently distal, astrocytic processes. Astrocytic processes with βAR404-immunoreactivity formed multiple, thin lamellae around TH-labeled and non-TH neuronal cell bodies and dendrites. βAR404-immunoreactive astrocytes also extended end-feet around blood vessels and surrounded groups of axon terminals that were directly juxtaposed to each other. Some, but not all, of these axons demonstrated TH-immunoreactivity. Fewer βAR404-immunoreactive astrocytes were detected in AP, regardless of their proximity to catecholaminergic processes or blood vessels. The present astrocytic localization of βAR404, together with the earlier, neuronal localization of βAR's third intracellular loop, suggest that the βAR may be substantially different between neurons and astrocytes. The regional difference in the prevalence of βAR404-immunoreactive astrocytes suggests that these receptive sites may either: (i) be preferentially activated by catecholamines released from terminals rather than circulating catecholamines; or (ii) be down-regulated in AP due to blood-born substances, such as catecholamines. The extensive localization of βAR in the border between m-NTS and AP also suggests that catecholaminergic activation of these astrocytes may dictate the degree of diffusion of catecholamines which are of neuronal or vascular origin. The specific localization of βAR404-immunoreactivity to the more distal portions of astrocytes suggests the possibility that astrocytes have restrictive distributions of βAR and that the β-adrenergic activation lead to morphological or chemical changes that are also localized to the distal portions of astrocytes. Additionally, the detection of βAR404 in astrocytes contacting non-TH-immunoreactive neurons suggests the possibility for catecholaminergic modulation of non-catecholaminergic neurons via the activation of astrocytes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)35-49
Number of pages15
JournalBrain Research
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 31 1992


  • Area postrema
  • Astrocyte
  • Blood-brain barrier
  • Catecholamine
  • Circumventricular organ
  • Nucleus of the solitary tract
  • Synapse
  • Tyrosine hydroxylase
  • Ultrastructure
  • β-Adrenergic receptor

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Neuroscience
  • Molecular Biology
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Developmental Biology


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