Adrenergic sympathectomy ablates unmyelinated fibers in the rat 'preganglionic' cervical sympathetic trunk

Douglas W. Zochodne, Phillip A. Low, Peter J. Dyck

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


Classical anatomical depictions of the cervical sympathetic trunk label it is cholinergic preganglionic structure. We studied the cervical sympathetic trunk of the rat following daily injection for 5 weeks of guanethidine monosulphate, a regimen known to selectively destroy adrenergic neurons outside of the blood-brain barrier leaving cholinergic systems and preganglionic structures intact. The drug-treated animals were compared with a group of physiologic saline-injected animals. In the drug-treated animals, there was an approximately 40% reduction in the numbers of unmyelinated fibers per unit area compared to controls. The finding of swollen and degenerative appearing unmyelinated fibers at 7 days of drug treatment confirmed that the fiber loss resulted from active axonal degeneration. The pattern of unmyelinated fiber loss was expressed as a reduction of fibers per Schwann cell-basement membrane profile with an appearance of 'empty profiles', and a conversion of large profiles (with large numbers of fibers per profile) to smaller size categories. There were no differences in axon diameters, fascicular areas, and numbers of microvessels between the groups. Microvessels were dilated in the drug-treated animals. These findings suggest that a large component of the cervical sympathetic chain in the rat consists of postganglionic adrenergic fibers which appear to intermingle with preganglionic cholinergic axons coursing through the chain.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)221-228
Number of pages8
JournalBrain Research
Issue number2
StatePublished - Oct 2 1989


  • Cervical sympathetic trunk
  • Guanethidine
  • Sympathectomy
  • Unmyelinated fiber

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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


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