Altered reactivity of the rat adrenal medulla

Denise A. Carbonaro, Jeffrey P. Mitchell, Frederick L. Hall, Philip R Vulliet

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


Previous studies have suggested that experimental alterations in adrenomedullary reactivity i.e., changes in catecholamine release in response to a standard dose of acetylcholine, may be partially accounted for by changes occurring at the level of the adrenal medulla itself, independent of both the central nervous system and the innervation of the adrenal gland. The present study was designed to investigate the morphology of adrenal chromaffin cells in rats subjected to chronic hypoglycemia induced by long acting insulin, and to assess this morphology in terms of associated changes in catecholamine content and release. Surgically isolated, perfused adrenal gland preparations were utilized to characterize the functional release of catecholamines from the adrenal medulla. Pretreatment with long acting insulin resulted in a selective depletion of epinephrine stores and acetylcholine-mediated epinephrine release, but did not appear to significantly affect either the levels or the release of norepinephrine. The biochemical effects of long acting insulin persisted for several days after termination of the treatment, exhibiting a gradual recovery over a period of approximately 5 days. Electron microscopic examination of the adrenal chromaffin cells revealed a progressive degranulation and vacuolization of numerous chromaffin cells followed by a compensatory biosynthetic response and a gradual recovery toward the morphology of control cells. The functional release of catecholamines from adrenal chromaffin cells was further examined in preparations of perfused adrenal slices. Acetylcholine-mediated catecholamine release was significantly decreased in slices of adrenal glands prepared from insulin treated rats when compared with that of control animals. Taken together, our findings 1) support the hypothesis that altered adrenal reactivity is manifested largely at the level of the adrenal chromaffin cells, and 2) indicate that the chromaffin cells of the adrenal medulla represent a useful model of adrenergic cell plasticity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)451-458
Number of pages8
JournalBrain Research Bulletin
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1988


  • Adrenal medulla
  • Catecholamine release
  • Catecholamines
  • Cellular plasticity
  • Hypoglycemia
  • Insulin
  • Ultrastructure

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)


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