The catecholaminergic innervation of the human septal area and closely related structures has been visualized by using tyrosine hydroxylase (TH) and dopamine-β-hydroxylase (DBH) as immunocytochemical markers. TH-like immunoreactivity with no corresponding DBH labelling was considered to be indicative of dopaminergic fibers.
Catecholaminergic innervation offered the following similarities to that of rodents: (1) moderate innervation in the medial septal division, with predominant DBH immunolabelling; (2) dense dopaminergic innervation in the lateral septal nuclei, organized in a laminar pattern; (3) presence of dopaminergic pericellular arrangements in the dorsal septum and bed n. of the stria terminalis; (4) clustering of dopaminergic terminals in n. accumbens associated with a medioventral zone of DBH-like immunoreactive fibers; (5) close overlap between dopaminergic fields and acetylcholinesterase-reactive zones in both the lateral septum and the n. of the stria terminalis.
Differences with the catecholaminergic septal innervation of rodents consisted of (1) general caudal extension of the dopaminergic fields, possibly accounted for by the vertical stretching and caudal displacement of the septal nuclei in man; (2) complementary lateromedial. topography of dopaminergic and DBH-immunoreactive inputs in the n. of the stria terminalis as opposed to their dorsoventral organization in rodents; (3) presence of TH-immunolabelled cell group in the anterior olfactory nucleus and parolfactory cortex, which seems specific for primates.
Precise topographical mapping of the catecholaminergic structures in this central region of the limbic forebrain seems to be a prerequisite for accurate tissue sampling in the biochemical investigations of pathological cases and should help in the interpretation of aminergic dysfunction in a variety of human diseases.