Neuropeptides are present in projection neurones at all levels in visceral and taste pathways: from periphery to sensory cortex

Patrick W. Mantyh, Stephan P. Hunt

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

141 Scopus citations


Using combined immuno-staining and retrograde tracing techniques many of the ascending visceral and taste pathways within the rat central nervous system have been shown to be composed of a variety of neuropeptide and catecholamine synthesizing enzyme containing neurones. The pathway we examined extended from the periphery to sensory cortex and included: the nodose ganglion (periphery) → solitary nucleus (medulla) → parabrachial nucleus (pons) → ventral posterior medial nucleus (thalamus) → visceral and taste sensory areas (cortex). In the solitary nucleus of the medulla many neuronal cell bodies could be shown to be both immuno-positive for one of 6 neuropeptides including avian pancreatic peptide (APP), cholecystokinin (CCK), enkephalin (ENK), neurotensin (NT), somatostatin (SOM) and substance P (SP) or the catecholamine synthesizing enzyme tyrosine hydroxylase (TOH) and to have a projection to the parabrachial nucleus of the pons. In the parabrachial nucleus of the pons many neuronal cell bodies could be shown to be immuno-positive for one of 5 neuropeptides (CCK, ENK, NT, SOM, SP) and have a projection to the ventral posterior medial nucleus of the thalamus. In the ventral posterior medial nucleus of the thalamus several neuronal cell bodies were shown to be immuno-positive for one of 3 neuropeptides (CCK, ENK, SOM) and project to the visceral and taste sensory cortex. This is the first report of neuropeptides being present in the projection neurones of any sensory system in the central nervous system and for the first time describes an entire set of putative neurotransmitters which extends from the periphery to the sensory cortex. From previous studies it also appears that in all cases examined the relevant receptors are present in these visceral and taste relay nuclei in order for the neuropeptide or catecholamine to produce an effect upon release. Comparisons between rat and other animals suggest that a similar organization of these visceral and taste pathways may also be present in other mammals including man. Functionally these neuropeptides containing projection neurones appear to be primarily involved in relaying visceral information rather than taste information. In this capacity activation of these neurones may produce such visceral sensations as malaise, well being, hunger, satiety or thirst.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)297-312
Number of pages16
JournalBrain Research
Issue number2
StatePublished - May 14 1984
Externally publishedYes



  • central representation
  • neuropeptides
  • neurotransmission
  • sensory pathways
  • taste
  • viscera

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)
  • Molecular Biology
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Developmental Biology

Cite this