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In obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) patients, contraction of the muscles of the tongue is needed to protect the upper airway from collapse. During wakefulness, norepinephrine directly excites motoneurons that innervate the tongue and other upper airway muscles but its excitatory effects decline during sleep, thus contributing to OSA. In addition to motoneurons, NE may regulate activity in premotor pathways but little is known about these upstream effects. To start filling this void, we injected a retrograde tracer (beta-subunit of cholera toxin-CTb; 5-10 nl, 1%) into the hypoglossal (XII) motor nucleus in 7 rats. We then used dual immunohistochemistry and brightfield microscopy to count dopamine beta-hydroxylase (DBH)-positive axon terminals closely apposed to CTb cells located in five anatomically distinct XII premotor regions. In different premotor groups, we found on the average 2.2-4.3 closely apposed DBH terminals per cell, with ˜60% more terminals on XII premotor neurons located in the ventrolateral pontine parabrachial region and ventral medullary gigantocellular region than on XII premotor cells of the rostral or caudal intermediate medullary reticular regions. This difference suggests stronger control by norepinephrine of the interneurons that mediate complex behavioral effects than of those mediating reflexes or respiratory drive to XII motoneurons. Copyright © 2019 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.