Afferent projections to the Calca /CGRP-expressing parabrachial neurons in mice

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The parabrachial nucleus (PB), located in the dorsolateral pons, contains primarily glutamatergic neurons which regulate responses to a variety of interoceptive and cutaneous sensory signals. The lateral PB subpopulation expressing the Calca gene which produces the neuropeptide calcitonin gene-related peptide (CGRP) relays signals related to threatening stimuli such as hypercarbia, pain, and nausea, yet the afferents to these neurons are only partially understood. We mapped the afferent projections to the lateral part of the PB in mice using conventional cholera toxin B subunit (CTb) retrograde tracing, and then used conditional rabies virus retrograde tracing to map monosynaptic inputs specifically targeting the PB Calca /CGRP neurons. Using vesicular GABA (vGAT) and glutamate (vGLUT2) transporter reporter mice, we found that lateral PB neurons receive GABAergic afferents from regions such as the lateral part of the central nucleus of the amygdala, lateral dorsal subnucleus of the bed nucleus of the stria terminalis, substantia innominata, and the ventrolateral periaqueductal gray. Additionally, they receive glutamatergic afferents from the infralimbic and insular cortex, paraventricular nucleus, parasubthalamic nucleus, trigeminal complex, medullary reticular nucleus, and nucleus of the solitary tract. Using anterograde tracing and confocal microscopy, we then identified close axonal appositions between these afferents and PB Calca /CGRP neurons. Finally, we used channelrhodopsin-assisted circuit mapping to test whether some of these inputs directly synapse upon the PB Calca /CGRP neurons. These findings provide a comprehensive neuroanatomical framework for understanding the afferent projections regulating the PB Calca /CGRP neurons.

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