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Keywords:

  • lateral habenular complex (LHb);
  • medial habenular complex (MHb);
  • emotion;
  • monaminergic systems;
  • nonreward system;
  • Klüver-Barrera stain

ABSTRACT

The mammalian habenulae consist of medial (MHb) and lateral (LHb) nuclear complexes. Especially the LHb has received much interest because it has been recognized as the potential center of an “anti-reward system.” Subnuclear organization and connectivity of the LHb are well known. In contrast, criteria to classify habenular neurons into distinct groups with potentially different biological functions are missing, most likely as a result of the lack of appropriate marker proteins. Actually, a huge amount of data concerning the localization of more than 20,000 mouse protein genes is provided in the Allen Brain Atlas. Unfortunately, the immediate use of this information is prohibited by the fact that the subnuclear organization of the habenular complexes in mouse is not known so far. The present report, therefore, uses topographic, structural, and cytochemical information from the rat to recognize corresponding areas within the mouse habenulae. Taking advantage of the fact that the Klüver-Barrera technique allows simultaneous observation of neuronal cell bodies and myelinated fibers, we were able to correlate subnuclear areas in the mouse habenula to subnuclei, which had been rigorously identified by several criteria in the rat. Our data suggest that the topographic localization of habenular subnuclei is rather similar between mouse and rat and that they may be homologous in these two species. Consequently, our data may allow using the Allen Brain Atlas as a source of basal information, which should be helpful to select candidate molecular markers for functionally different neurons in the mouse and potentially in higher mammalian species. J. Comp. Neurol. 522:2650–2662, 2014. © 2014 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.