The stellate ganglia are the predominant source of sympathetic innervation to the heart. Remodeling of sympathetic nerves projecting to the heart has been observed in several cardiovascular diseases, and sympathetic dysfunction contributes to cardiac pathology. Wistar Kyoto rats are a common model for the study of cardiovascular diseases, but we lack a profile of the baseline transcriptomic and neurochemical characteristics of their cardiac sympathetic neurons. Most studies of cardiovascular disease have used male animals only, but in the future both male and female animals will be used for these types of studies; therefore, we sought to characterize the transcriptome of male and female stellate ganglia and to correlate that with catecholamine and acetylcholine content in the heart. We have generated a dataset of baseline RNA expression in male and female Wistar Kyoto rat stellate ganglia using RNA-seq, and have measured neurotransmitter levels in heart and stellate ganglia using HPLC and mass spectrometry. We identified numerous gene expression differences between male and female stellates, including genes encoding important developmental factors, receptors and neuropeptides. Female hearts had significantly higher neurotransmitter content than male hearts; however, no significant differences were detected in expression of the genes encoding neurotransmitter synthetic enzymes. Similarly, no statistically significant differences were identified between the sexes in cardiac tyrosine hydroxylase levels.
Bayles, R. G., Tran, J., Olivas, A., Woodward, W. R., Fei, S. S., Gao, L., & Habecker, B. A. (2019). Sex differences in sympathetic gene expression and cardiac neurochemistry in Wistar Kyoto rats. PLoS ONE, 14(6). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0218133