Sympathetic Innervation of the Developing Rabbit Heart
Biochemical and Histochemical Comparisons of Fetal, Neonatal, and Adult Myocardium
The sympathetic innervation of the rabbit heart, as a function of age, was studied by measuring the cardiac concentration of catecholamines and observing the anatomic distribution of sympathetic nerves by the monoamine fluorescense technique. The cardiac concentration of norepinephrine in late gestation was quite low; the levels rose progressively after birth to reach adult levels by about three weeks of age. Similar small amounts of epinephrine were found in the hearts at all ages. Substantially less change in adrenal catecholamines accompanied advancing age. At all ages a close correlation was noted between the norepinephrine levels and the histochemical demonstration of sympathetic innervation. Intensely fluorescent, terminal varicosities were observed within large preterminal nerve trunks only in the youngest animals, suggesting that the sympathetic nerves move into, rather than form within, the heart. Chromaffin cells were observed in the hearts at all ages.
- Accepted April 29, 1968.
- © 1968 American Heart Association, Inc.