Characterization of glutamatergic neurons in the rat atrial intrinsic cardiac ganglia that project to the cardiac ventricular wall

Ting Wang, Kenneth E. Miller

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


The intrinsic cardiac nervous system modulates cardiac function by acting as an integration site for regulating autonomic efferent cardiac output. This intrinsic system is proposed to be composed of a short cardio-cardiac feedback control loop within the cardiac innervation hierarchy. For example, electrophysiological studies have postulated the presence of sensory neurons in intrinsic cardiac ganglia (ICG) for regional cardiac control. There is still a knowledge gap, however, about the anatomical location and neurochemical phenotype of sensory neurons inside ICG. In the present study, rat ICG neurons were characterized neurochemically with immunohistochemistry using glutamatergic markers: vesicular glutamate transporters 1 and 2 (VGLUT1; VGLUT2), and glutaminase (GLS), the enzyme essential for glutamate production. Glutamatergic neurons (VGLUT1/VGLUT2/GLS) in the ICG that have axons to the ventricles were identified by retrograde tracing of wheat germ agglutinin-horseradish peroxidase (WGA-HRP) injected in the ventricular wall. Co-labeling of VGLUT1, VGLUT2, and GLS with the vesicular acetylcholine transporter (VAChT) was used to evaluate the relationship between post-ganglionic autonomic neurons and glutamatergic neurons. Sequential labeling of VGLUT1 and VGLUT2 in adjacent tissue sections was used to evaluate the co-localization of VGLUT1 and VGLUT2 in ICG neurons. Our studies yielded the following results: (1) ICG contain glutamatergic neurons with GLS for glutamate production and VGLUT1 and 2 for transport of glutamate into synaptic vesicles; (2) atrial ICG contain neurons that project to ventricle walls and these neurons are glutamatergic; (3) many glutamatergic ICG neurons also were cholinergic, expressing VAChT; (4) VGLUT1 and VGLUT2 co-localization occurred in ICG neurons with variation of their protein expression level. Investigation of both glutamatergic and cholinergic ICG neurons could help in better understanding the function of the intrinsic cardiac nervous system.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)134-150
Number of pages17
StatePublished - 4 Aug 2016


  • Glutaminase
  • Intrinsic cardiac ganglia
  • Sensory neurons
  • Vesicular acetylcholine transporter
  • Vesicular glutamate transporter 1 & 2
  • Wheat germ agglutinin-horseradish peroxidase


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