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Genetic identity of thermosensory relay neurons in the lateral parabrachial nucleus

Geerling, JC;Kim, M;Mahoney, CE;Abbott, SB;Agostinelli, LJ;Garfield, AS;Krashes, MJ;Lowell, BB;Scammell, TE;

The parabrachial nucleus is important for thermoregulation because it relays skin temperature information from the spinal cord to the hypothalamus. Prior work in rats localized thermosensory relay neurons to its lateral subdivision (LPB), but the genetic and neurochemical identity of these neurons remains unknown. To determine the identity of LPB thermosensory neurons, we exposed mice to a warm (36C) or cool (4C) ambient temperature. Each condition activated neurons in distinct LPB subregions that receive input from the spinal cord. Most c-Fos+ neurons in these LPB subregions expressed the transcription factor marker FoxP2. Consistent with prior evidence that LPB thermosensory relay neurons are glutamatergic, all FoxP2+ neurons in these subregions colocalized with green fluorescent protein (GFP) in reporter mice for Vglut2, but not for Vgat. Prodynorphin (Pdyn)-expressing neurons were identified using a GFP reporter mouse and formed a caudal subset of LPB FoxP2+ neurons, primarily in the dorsal lateral subnucleus (PBdL). Warm exposure activated many FoxP2+ neurons within PBdL. Half of the c-Fos+ neurons in PBdL were Pdyn+, and most of these project into the preoptic area. Cool exposure activated a separate FoxP2+ cluster of neurons in the far-rostral LPB, which we named the rostral-to-external lateral subnucleus (PBreL). These findings improve our understanding of LPB organization and reveal that Pdyn-IRES-Cre mice provide genetic access to warm-activated, FoxP2+ glutamatergic neurons in PBdL, many of which project to the hypothalamus.