Patterns of primary afferent termination in the external cuneate nucleus from cervical axial muscles in the cat.
Using the method of transganglionic transport of horseradish peroxidase (HRP), the distribution of primary afferent projections was examined in the external cuneate nucleus (ECN) from different muscle groups in the forequarter of the cat. The terminal zones of afferent fibers from three shoulder muscles--clavotrapezius, acromiotrapezius, and spinotrapezius--were compared to projections from suboccipital muscles, dorsal neck extensors, and muscles of the proximal forelimb. Each muscle group had a labelled terminal zone that occupied a different subvolume of the ECN. The zone labelled from trapezius muscles formed a continuous column in the ECN running from the caudal pole of the nucleus to a level 3.0 mm rostral to the obex. Terminal zones of suboccipital muscles and dorsal neck extensors formed longer columns that extended into the most rostral tip of the ECN, while those of proximal forelimb muscles formed shorter columns confined to the caudal two-thirds of the ECN. At comparable cross-sectional levels in the caudal and middle portions of the ECN, terminal zones from proximal limb muscles were located most dorsomedially, while those from shoulder muscles, dorsal neck muscles, and suboccipital muscles were located in progressively more ventral and lateral regions. The subvolume of the ECN occupied by projections from cervical axial muscles was estimated to be more than 40% of the volume of the nucleus, suggesting that the ECN has a major role in the transmission of sensory information from axial musculature to the cerebellum. Following exposure of all muscle nerves to tracer, a second labelled zone was also identified close to the ECN in the descending vestibular nucleus at transverse levels 2.0-3.0 mm rostral to the obex. Here, reaction product was concentrated around a circumscribed collection of medium-sized, multipolar cells.