Noradrenergic axons hitch hiking along the human abducens nerve

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Anat Cell Biol


The abducens nerve (AN; cranial nerve VI) exits the brainstem at the inferior pontine sulcus, pierces the dura of the posterior cranial fossa, passes through the cavernous sinus in close contact to the internal carotid artery (ICA) and traverses the superior orbital fissure to reach the orbit to innervate the lateral rectus muscle. At its exit from the brainstem, the AN includes only axons from lower motor neurons in the abducens nucleus. However, as the AN crosses the ICA it receives a number of branches from the internal carotid sympathetic plexus. The arrangement, neurochemical profile and function of these sympathetic axons running along the AN remain unresolved. Herein, we use gross dissection and microscopic study of hematoxylin and eosin-stained sections and sections with tyrosine hydroxylase immunolabeling. Our results suggest the AN receives multiple bundles of unmyelinated axons that use norepinephrine as a neurotransmitter consistent with postganglionic sympathetic axons.

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ePub ahead of print