Postnatal genesis of small, intensely fluorescent cells was studied in the rat superior cervical ganglion by combining immunocytochemistry of tyrosine hydroxylase with tritiated thymidine auto-radiography. After injection of tritiated thymidine during the first postnatal week, silver grains were observed over the nuclei of many small cells with intense staining for tyrosine hydroxylase, suggesting that SIF cells are dividing postnatally. Cell counts in ganglia of rats sacrificed 2 h after tritiated thymidine showed that the rate of SIF cell proliferation was highest during the first postnatal week with approximately 20% of SIF cells dividing and that the rate declined thereafter. Counts of labeled SIF cells at 30 days in rats injected with tritiated thymidine on days 0, 2, 4, 6, 8, 10 or 14 revealed a peak of SIF cell birthdays on day 8. In these long-survival experiments, many labeled SIF cells were present in adult superior cervical ganglions. In contrast, only one labeled principal neuron was observed in a total of 450 sections. Glucocorticoid treatment of the rats during the first postnatal week paradoxically increased the number of SIF cells, but inhibited the rate of SIF cell proliferation. Dividing SIF cells immunoreactive for both tyrosine hydroxylase and phenylethanolamine N-methyltransferase were observed in glucocorticoid-treated rats. These observations suggest that many SIF cells are dividing during the first postnatal week. After cessation of division, these cells either remain SIF cells or die, but do not differentiate into principal neurons. Since glucocorticoids do not stimulate SIF cell proliferation, they must increase the number of SIF cells by biasing the differentiation of precursor cells in the superior cervical ganglion and/or enhancing SIF cell survival.
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