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Barrington’s nucleus: Neuroanatomic landscape of the mouse pontine micturition center

Verstegen, AMJ;Vanderhorst, V;Gray, PA;Zeidel, ML;Geerling, JC;

Barrington’s nucleus (Bar) is thought to contain neurons that trigger voiding and thereby function as the pontine micturition center. Lacking detailed information on this region in mice, we examined gene and protein markers to characterize Bar and the neurons surrounding it. Like rats and cats, mice have an ovoid core of medium-sized Bar neurons located medial to the locus coeruleus (LC). Bar neurons express a GFP reporter for Vglut2, develop from a Math1/Atoh1 lineage, and exhibit immunoreactivity for NeuN. Many neurons in and around this core cluster express a reporter for corticotrophin-releasing hormone (Bar(CRH) ). Axons from Bar(CRH) neurons project to the lumbosacral spinal cord and ramify extensively in two regions: the dorsal gray commissural and intermediolateral nuclei. Bar(CRH) neurons have unexpectedly long dendrites, which may receive synaptic input from the cerebral cortex and other brain regions beyond the core afferents identified previously. Finally, at least five populations of neurons surround Bar: rostral-dorsomedial cholinergic neurons in the laterodorsal tegmental nucleus; lateral noradrenergic neurons in the LC; medial GABAergic neurons in the pontine central gray; ventromedial, small GABAergic neurons that express FoxP2; and dorsolateral glutamatergic neurons that express FoxP2 in the pLC and form a wedge dividing Bar from the dorsal LC. We discuss the implications of this new information for interpreting existing data and future experiments targeting Bar(CRH) neurons and their synaptic afferents to study micturition and other pelvic functions.