23 September 2008
The extreme blood pressure gradients in the giraffe, produced by gravity and behaviour, present a special challenge to blood flow and vascular capacity regulation, e.g. via sympathetic nerves. We report the distribution of nerves in vascular tissue from giraffe extremities and neck based on immunofluorescence against specific antisera to dopamine-β-hydroxylase, neuropeptide Y, neurofilament, and synapsin I. Sympathetic innervation of gravitation-dependent arteries in the limbs was restricted to the adventitia-media border, while in carotid arteries fibers penetrated deep into the media. Surprisingly, limb veins appeared to be devoid of sympathetic innervation, while jugular veins had a sparse innervation. The morphological response, medial hypertrophy, that parallels the hydrostatic pressure gradients in the circulation combines with the thick skin and tight underlying fascia, the ‘g-suit’, and an exquisitely distributed sympathetic innervation pattern to provide an effective array of mechanisms for cardiovascular regulation in the adult giraffe.