Activation of brainstem catecholaminergic neurons by conditioned and unconditioned aversive stimuli as revealed by c-Fos immunoreactivity

Michael A. Pezzone, Wen Sen Lee, Gloria E. Hoffman, Kimberly M. Pezzone, Bruce S. Rabin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

150 Citations (Scopus)


In an attempt to define areas of the brain that respond to stressors and influence immune function, we have previously identified stress-induced, c-Fos-immunoreactive areas of the diencephalon. We found that c-Fos was strongly expressed in cells of the paraventricular nuclei (some of which contain corticotropin-releasing hormone (CRH) and other hypothalamic areas directly associated with autonomic function. To further characterize the presumptive pathways mediating stress-induced immune alterations, including the assessment of brainstem catecholaminergic neuron involvement, the induction of c-Fos immunoreactivity was examined in the brainstems of rats exposed to conditioned and unconditioned, immunomodulating stimuli. In response to electric footshock (the unconditioned stimulus (US)), c-Fos immunoreactivity was strongly induced in the noradrenergic neurons of the locus ceruleus (A6), the nucleus of the solitary tract (A2/C2), the ventral lateral medulla (A1/C1), A5, and A7, as well as in unidentified neurons of the dorsal and ventral subdivisions of the periqueductal gray (PAG), and in the serotonergic neurons of the dorsal raphe nuclei. Conditioned animals re-exposed to the conditioned stimulus showed c-Fos induction in these same areas but to a lesser degree. Control animals exposed only to the conditioning stimulus (CS) (electronic tone) in the absence of the US, expressed very little, if any, c-Fos activity in the above loci except for a small degree of baseline expression in the PAG. These results further confirm the role of autonomic and endocrine pathways as mediators of the stress response and will help to more fully characterize the pathways of stress-induced immune alteration.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)310-318
Number of pages9
JournalBrain Research
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Apr 16 1993
Externally publishedYes


  • A5
  • A7
  • Conditioning
  • Footshock
  • Locus ceruleus
  • Neuroimmunomodulation
  • Nucleus of the solitary tract
  • Periaqueductal gray
  • Ventral lateral medulla

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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


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