Topography and organization of cranial nerve nuclei in the sand lizard, Lacerta agilis

George Székely, Clara Matesz

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Cobaltic‐lysine complex compound was used to label cranial nerves of the ventrolateral (branchiomotor) and dorsomedial (somatomotor) nuclear columns in the sand lizard, Lacerta agilis. The dendritic arborizations and axonal trajectories of neurons of the respective nuclei were reconstructed from serial sections. A fairly uniform neuronal morphology was found in the nuclei of the ventrolateral column: a spindle‐shaped perikaryon gave rise to dorsomedial and ventrolateral dendritic trees, the latter arborizing in a characteristic broomlike manner within a narrow region in the lateral white matter. Axons of ail neurons converged upon the medial longitudinal fasciculus and after making a hairpin turn formed the corresponding motor roots. A group of small neurons constituted a separate subnucleus within the V motor nucleus. The VII and IX nuclei were fused into a single nuclear complex. The nucleus ambiguus was found dorsal to the XII nucleus and lateral to the dorsal vagal nucleus. The latter nucleus extended rostrally to the caudal pole of the VI nucleus, and its neurons sent axons to the VII, IX, and X nerves. The term “dorsal visceromotor column” designates the extended dorsal vagal nucleus. A number of small polygonal neurons lying scattered in the lateral part of the medulla were labeled via the VII, IX, and X nerves. This loose aggregate of labeled neurons was termed the “lateral visceromotor area.” On the basis of nuclear topography and cellular morphology, the existence of a bulbar XI nucleus was excluded. Three different types of neurons could be distinguished in the dorsomedial nuclear column. Neurons with oval or spherical perikarya and radially oriented dendrites constituted the nuclei innervating external eye muscles. Except for the IV nucleus, axons followed a ventral trajectory. The accessory VI nucleus was composed of a second type of neuron with elongated soma and dorsoventral dendrite orientation; the dorsally directed axon turned ventrally at the VI nucleus. The XII nucleus contains a third type of neuron with strongly decussating dendrites. The distinct differences in the neuronal morphology did not support the classical assumption that all of the nuclei of the dorsomedial motor column supply muscles derived from somitic mesoderm. Sensory fibers of the trigeminal nerve formed the familiar spinal tract, which partially decussated in the medullospinal transition zone and could be followed as far as the lumbar segments on the ipsilateral side of the spinal cord. Neurons of the mesencephalic root of the trigeminal nerve were localized in the optic tectum; their descending fibers joined the medial aspect of the spinal tract. A number of sites, including the V motor nucleus, received terminating collaterals. The solitary tract received primary afferent fibers from the VII, IX, and X nerves. All three components could be followed to the commissura infima. At the level of the VII nucleus, a number of fiber bundles form the tractus solitarius projected to the spinal trigeminal nucleus. Conversely, the nucleus of the solitary tract received a large contingent of fibers from the spinal trigeminal tract.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)525-544
Number of pages20
JournalJournal of Comparative Neurology
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Jan 22 1988



  • axonal trajectory
  • cobalt labeling
  • dendritic arborization
  • serial reconstruction

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)

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