A cell-by-cell analysis of the magnocellular elements in hypothalami of fifty Long-Evans (normal) and Brattleboro (diabetes insipidis) rats was done using the unlabeled antibody enzyme technique (PAP) with primary antisera directed against oxytocin (OXY), vasopressin (ADH), and the neurophysins.

The magnocellular neurons of the hypothalamus were found in the supraoptic (SON), paraventricular (PVN), and anterior comissural (ACN) nuclei, a number of accessory nuclei, and as individual cells in the anterior hypothalamic area. SON was divided by the optic tract into the principal part and retrochiasmatic SON. In retrochiasmatic SON a majority of the cells contained vasopressin. Within the principal part of SON oxytocin-producing cells tended to be found rostrally and dorsally, while the vasopressin cells were more common caudally and ventrally. PVN was divided into three subnuclei, the medial, lateral, and posterior subnuclei, on the basis of cellular morphology and peptide content. The magnocellular cells of the medial and lateral PVN were closely packed together and nearly round, while those of posterior PVN were more separated and fusiform in shape with their long axis running in a medio-lateral direction. Medial PVN consisted primarily of oxytocin-producing cells, while lateral PVN was formed by a core of vasopressin-producing cells with a rim of oxytocin cells. Posterior PVN contained largely oxytocin-producing cells. Both ADH and OXY cells were found in the accessory nuclei.

In the Long-Evans rat the SON had, on the average, 1443 OXY and 3236 ADH cells; the PVN had 1174 OXY and 976 ADH cells; and the accessory magnocellular groups in the hypothalamus (including the ACN) had 1286 OXY and 552 ADH cells. The Brattleboro strain animal had similar numbers of cells in these nuclei. (The cells which contain ADH in normal animals were identified in the Brattleboro rat as large, neurophysin-negative cells.) Thus, a large fraction of the magnocellular oxytocin- and vasopressin-producing cells in the rat were located outside of the PVN and SON. One accessory cell group in particular, ACN, had 616 OXY cells, or about 50% as many as PVN. In each nucleus the sum of the numbers of OXY and ADH cells was approximately the number of neurophysin cells.