Regional cardiac ganglia projections in the guinea pig heart studied by postmortem DiI tracing.
Our purpose was to identify and localize intrinsic cardiac ganglia innervating distinct regions of the heart using postmortem tracing of nerve projections with DiI, a method not previously used to study the intrinsic cardiac nervous system. We also investigated the possibility of collateral innervation of myocardium and intrinsic ganglia. In isolated paraformaldehyde-fixed guinea pig hearts, crystals of DiI (1,1'-dioctadecyl-3,3,3',3'-tetramethylindocarbocyanine perchlorate) were inserted into the posterior ventricular myocardium below the atrioventricular groove, the right atrium, or the left ventricular septum. Hearts were placed in the dark at 37 degrees C for 2-14 weeks to allow DiI diffusion within neuronal membranes. Labeled neurons were observed in intracardiac ganglia after at least 4 weeks of dye exposure. Labeling was restricted to the inferior-most ganglia (those near the atrioventricular groove) when DiI was inserted into the posterior ventricular myocardium and to ganglia near the sinus node after right atrial DiI placement. Application of DiI to the left ventricular septum resulted in neuron labeling in ganglia primarily in the interatrial septum near the atrioventricular node. After 8 weeks, DiI-labeled nerve fibers and varicosities were seen surrounding unlabeled neurons in some ganglia, suggesting that axons terminating in or passing through the DiI application site in posterior ventricular tissue had collateral branches innervating these ganglia. These results indicate that intrinsic innervation of major cardiac subdivisions is accomplished by regionally segregated cardiac ganglia. Also, tracing with DiI has provided evidence for collateral nerve projections that could be the substrate for novel intracardiac regulatory circuits. (c) 2005 Wiley-Liss, Inc.