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Retrograde neuronal tracing and immunohistochemical methods were used to define the neurochemical content of sympathetic neurons projecting to the sow retractor clitoridis muscle (RCM). Differently from the other smooth muscles of genital organs, the RCM is an isolated muscle that is tonically contracted in the rest phase and relaxed in the active phase. This peculiarity makes it an interesting experimental model. The fluorescent tracer fast blue was injected into the RCM of three 50 kg subjects. After a one-week survival period, the ipsilateral paravertebral ganglion S1, that in a preliminary study showed the greatest number of cells projecting to the muscle, was collected from each animal. The co-existence of tyrosine hydroxylase with choline acetyltransferase, neuronal nitric oxide synthase, calcitonin gene-related peptide, leuenkephalin, neuropeptide Y, substance P and vasoactive intestinal polypeptide was studied under a fluorescent microscope on cryostat sections. Tyrosine hydroxylase was present in about 58% of the neurons projecting to the muscle and was found to be co-localized with each of the other tested substances.Within fast blue-labelled cells negative to the adrenergic marker, small populations of neurons singularly containing each of the other enzymatic markers or peptides were also observed. The present study documents the complexity of the neurochemical interactions that regulate the activity of the smooth myocytes of the RCM and their vascular components.
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