Comparison of density of sympathetic varicosities and their closeness to smooth muscle cells in rabbit middle cerebral and ear arteries and their branches.
The density and nerve varicosity-smooth muscle cell separation of rabbit cerebral and ear arterial beds were compared. The rabbit middle cerebral artery and three of its successive branches and a comparable-sized ear artery and two branches were perfusion-fixed for electron microscopy and analyzed by quantitative morphometric procedures. The purpose was to determine if there are structural correlates to previously observed differences in the sympathetic control of these two vascular systems. The in vitro contractile response of isolated artery segments to electrical field stimulation of their intramural nerves is considerably less in cerebral arteries compared with the similar-sized ear arteries. Furthermore, in the cerebral but not the ear circulation, there is progressive diminution of the neurogenic response with successive branching. Although the total varicosity densities of the major ear and brain arteries studied are similar, and this parameter stays fairly constant with successive branching of the ear, it falls off considerably in the cerebral vessels. There is a significant difference in densities between the two vascular beds when "bare" varicosities located < 1 micron from the medial smooth muscle are compared. The second-order branch of the ear artery has an average of 18 bare varicosities per 500-micron circumference, and the corresponding cerebral vessel has only 2.8 bare varicosities per 500-micron circumference. The mean bare varicosity-smooth muscle cell separation (mean +/- SEM) is significantly (P < .05) less in the ear (1.18 +/- 0.06 microns) than in the cerebral arteries (4.95 +/- 0.23 microns). This is true of all vessels studied. Fifty-nine percent of the bare varicosities in the ear arteries are < 1 micron from the smooth muscle cells, and 1.2% are more distant than 5 microns. These values for cerebral vessels are 9.5% and 37%, respectively. In the ear vessels, 25% of the bare varicosities make close neuromuscular contact (within 500 nm of the smooth muscle), whereas only 3% do so in cerebral vessels; in cerebral compared with ear vessels, the percentage becomes significantly less with branching. These structural features of brain vessels, taken together with the lower sensitivity to and the diminished capacity to respond to norepinephrine, probably account for their weak neurogenic control. The results indicate that the cerebral circulation of the rabbit receives a sympathetic innervation that is relatively ineffective in altering cerebrovascular tone.
- Copyright © 1994 by American Heart Association