VIP innervation: Sharp contrast in fetal sheep and baboon adrenal glands suggests differences in developmental regulation

Kathie A. Berghorn, Cun Li, Peter W. Nathanielsz, Thomas J. McDonald

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Immunocytochemical technique and light microscopy were used to ascertain the relationship between vasoactive intestinal polypeptide (VIP) and tyrosine hydroxylase in fetal sheep and fetal baboon adrenal cortices and medullae at 85% of gestation. VIP immunostaining was extremely robust in fetal sheep adrenal cortical neurofibers and cells while weak in fibers and nonexistent in cells of fetal baboon. Also, tyrosine hydroxylase-immunopositive cells, present throughout the adrenal cortices of both fetal sheep and baboons, were heavily innervated by VIP-immunoreactive neurofibers in fetal sheep, but not in fetal baboons. Adrenal cortical VIP-immunopositive fibers occurred in greater (P < 0.05) frequency in fetal sheep than in fetal baboons (14.82 ± 3.10 vs. 0.84 ± 0.26 fibers/field), were larger in diameter (2.93 ± 0.34 vs. 0.93 ± 0.07 μm) and ran for longer distances in the plane of section (127.85 ± 5.16 vs. 74.53 ± 4.93 μm). VIP immunogenicity in cells (ganglion and chromaffin) and fibers was robust in fetal adrenal medulla of sheep while nonexistent in baboons. VIP fibers in fetal sheep medulla were smaller in diameter compared to fetal sheep cortex (1.22 ± 0.13 vs. 2.93 ± 0.34 μm, P < 0.05), but not compared to extrinsic nerve fibers (1.30 ± 0.09 μm). We hypothesize that in fetal sheep of this age, medullary neurofibers derive primarily from extrinsic sources while cortical fibers arise from cortical ganglion cells. We conclude that at 85% of gestation the potential for VIP neural control of paracrine (e.g., glucocorticoid/catecholamine) interactions in both adrenal cortex and medulla is much greater in fetal sheep compared to fetal baboons.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)271-280
Number of pages10
JournalBrain Research
Issue number2
StatePublished - Sep 22 2000
Externally publishedYes


  • Adrenal
  • Baboon
  • Fetus
  • Sheep
  • Tyrosine hydroxylase
  • Vip

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)
  • Molecular Biology
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Developmental Biology


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