In immunohistochemical studies on rat two types of nerve fibres, both showing substance P and calcitonin gene-related peptide-like immunoreactivity, have been localized in the sphenopalatine ganglion, the principal cells of which contain both vasoactive intestinal polypeptide and choline acetyltransferase. One fine-calibre fibre type forms basket-like arrangements around approximately 3-5% of the principal neurons, whereas another, more coarse type traverses the ganglion without making contacts with the ganglion cells. By transection of nerves connecting with the ganglion, in combination with retrograde tracing experiments, it was concluded that the fine-calibre fibres exclusively come from the trigeminal ganglion, whereas the second type in addition, and mainly, originate in the internal carotid ganglion which is situated along the greater superficial petrosal nerve and the pterygoid nerve at their junction with the internal carotid nerve. The brain vasculature was shown to be one target structure for the innervated principal cells in the sphenopalatine ganglion. The arrangement provides the functional possibility for a modulatory interaction between the autonomie and sensory systems, thus resembling an axon reflex mechanism in the peripheral nervous system.
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