Characterization of the bed nucleus of the stria terminalis in the forebrain of anuran amphibians



Major common features have been reported for the organization of the basal telencephalon in amniotes, and most characteristics were thought to be acquired in the transition from anamniotes to amniotes. However, gene expression, neurochemical, and hodological data obtained for the basal ganglia and septal and amygdaloid complexes in amphibians (anamniotic tetrapods) have strengthened the idea of a conserved organization in tetrapods. A poorly characterized region in the forebrain of amniotes has been the bed nucleus of the stria terminalis (BST), but numerous recent investigations have characterized it as a member of the extended amygdala. Our study analyzes the main features of the BST in anuran amphibians to establish putative homologies with amniotes. Gene expression patterns during development identified the anuran BST as a subpallial, nonstriatal territory. The BST shows Nkx2.1 and Lhx7 expression and contains an Islet1-positive cell subpopulation derived from the lateral ganglionic eminence. Immunohistochemistry for diverse peptides and neurotransmitters revealed that the distinct chemoarchitecture of the BST is strongly conserved among tetrapods. In vitro tracing techniques with dextran amines revealed important connections between the BST and the central and medial amygdala, septal territories, medial pallium, preoptic area, lateral hypothalamus, thalamus, and prethalamus. The BST receives dopaminergic projections from the ventral tegmental area and is connected with the laterodorsal tegmental nucleus and the rostral raphe in the brainstem. All these data suggest that the anuran BST shares many features with its counterpart in amniotes and belongs to a basal continuum, likely controlling similar reflexes, reponses, and behaviors in tetrapods. J. Comp. Neurol. 520:330–363, 2012. © 2011 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.