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Abstract

Groups of pregnant rats were injected with two successive daily doses of 3H-thymidine from gestational day E12 and 13 (E12 + 13) until the day before parturition (E21 + 22) in order to label in their embryos the proliferating precursors of neurons. At 60 days of age the proportion of neurons generated (no longer labeled) on specific embryonic days was determined quantitatively in 18 regions of the midbrain tegmentum. The neurons of the oculomotor and trochlear nuclei are generated concurrently on days E12 and E13. There was a mirror image cytogenetic gradient in these nuclei and this was interpreted as the dispersal of neurons derived from a common neuroepithelial source to the medial longitudinal fasciculus. Neurons in three other components of the tegmental visual system are produced in rapid succession after the motor nuclei. In the nucleus of Darkschewitsch peak production time was on days E12 and E13, extending to day E15; in the Edinger-Westphal nucleus the time span was the same but with a pronounced peak on day E13; finally, the neurons of the parabigeminal nucleus were produced between days E13 and E15 with a peak on day E14. The neurons of the periaqueductal gray were generated between days E13 and 17 with a pronounced ventral-to-lateral and lateral-to-dorsal gradient.

In the red nucleus the neurons were produced on days E13 and E14 with a caudal-to-rostral gradient: the cells of the magnocellular division preceding slightly but significantly the cells of the parvocellular division. The neurons of the interpeduncular nucleus originated between days E13 and E15; the peak in its ventral portion was on day E13, in its dorsal portion on days E14 and E15. A ventral-to-dorsal gradient was seen also in both the dorsal and the median raphe nuclei in which neuron production occurred between days E13 and E15. The neurons of the pars compacta and pars reticulata of the substantia nigra were both produced between days E13 and E15 with a modified lateral-to-medial gradient. This gradient extended to the ventral tegmental area where neurons of the pars medialis were produced between days E14 and E16. With the exception of the central gray, neuron production was rapid and relatively early in the structures situated ventral to the midbrain tectum. A comparison of the cytogenetic gradients in the raphe nuclei of the lower and upper medulla, the pontine region, and the midbrain suggests that they originate from at least three separate neuroepithelial sources.