Anatomical substrates for the central control of sympathetic outflow to interscapular adipose tissue during cold exposure

Georgina Cano, Alicia M. Passerin, Jennifer C. Schiltz, J. Patrick Card, Shaun F. Morrison, Alan F. Sved

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

210 Scopus citations


The thermogenic activity of interscapular brown adipose tissue (IBAT) in response to physiologic stimuli, such as cold exposure, is controlled by its sympathetic innervation. To determine which brain regions might be involved in the regulation of cold-evoked increases in sympathetic outflow to IBAT, the present study compared central nervous system (CNS) areas activated by cold exposure with brain regions anatomically linked to the sympathetic innervation of IBAT. Immunocytochemical localization of Fos was examined in the brains of rats exposed to 4°C for 4 hours. In a separate group of rats, the neural circuit involved in IBAT control, including the location of sympathetic preganglionic neurons in the spinal cord, was characterized with pseudorabies virus, a retrograde transynaptic tracer. Central noradrenergic and serotonergic groups related to the sympathetic outflow to IBAT also were identified. Localization of viral antigens at different survival times (66-96 hours) revealed infection in circumscribed CNS populations, but only a subset of the regions comprising this circuitry showed cold-evoked Fos expression. The raphe pallidus and the ventromedial parvicellular subdivision of the paraventricular hypothalamic nucleus (PVH), both infected at early survival times, were the main areas containing sympathetic premotor neurons activated by cold exposure. Major cold-sensitive areas projecting to spinal interneurons or to regions containing sympathetic premotor neurons, which became infected at intermediate intervals, included lateral hypothalamic, perifornical, and retrochiasmatic areas, anterior and posterior PVH, ventrolateral periaqueductal gray, and Barrington's nucleus. Areas infected later, most likely related to reception of cold-related signals, comprised the lateral preoptic area, parastrial nucleus, dorsomedial hypothalamic nucleus, lateral parabrachial nucleus, and nucleus of the solitary tract. These interconnected areas, identified by combining functional and retrograde anatomic approaches, likely constitute the central circuitry responsible for the increase in sympathetic outflow to IBAT during cold-evoked thermogenesis.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)303-326
Number of pages24
JournalJournal of Comparative Neurology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jun 2 2003
Externally publishedYes


  • Dopamine-β-hydroxylase
  • Fos
  • Pseudorabies virus
  • Sympathetic nervous system
  • Tryptophan-hydroxylase

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)


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