• capillary dimensions;
  • stereology;
  • cytoarchitecture;
  • neural afferents;
  • efferents;
  • pericapillary labyrinths;
  • endothelial cells;
  • fenestrations;
  • Brattleboro rats


A comprehensive stereological analysis was performed to define capillary dimensions in individual subregions of the subfornical organ in Long-Evans, homozygous Brattleboro, and Sprague-Dawley rats. Capillary density, volume fraction, length, surface area, and diameter were assessed in four regions in the sagittal plane (rostral, “transitional,” central, and caudal) and two zones in the coronal plane (dorsal and ventromedial). The ventromedial zones in the central and caudal regions correspond to areas of dense perikarya and neuropil containing neural afferent inputs to the subfornical organ (e.g., putative fiber terminals for angiotensin II), whereas the dorsal zones of these regions are apparently the predominant sites of perikarya having efferent projections directed outside of the organ

The morphometric analysis revealed heterogeneous capillary density across subregions of the subfornical organ (range of 132 to 931 capillaries/mm2 in the three rat groups). Capillaries in the ventromedial zones of the central and caudal regions had significantly greater density, volume fraction, and surface area, but smaller diameters, than those in the adjacent dorsal zones and more rostral regions. Across all subregions within the dorsal zone, there was generally a consistent morphometric pattern in the three rat groups. No differences in capillary dimensions in any part of the subfornical organ were found between the Long-Evans and Brattleboro rats.

A qualitative electron microscopic investigation of endothelial cells in each subregion of the subfornical organ in Long-Evans rats revealed at least three types of capillary oriented according to region: (1) in the rostral region were capillaries having no endothelial fenestrations or pericapillary spaces, and few vesicles, (2) in the “transitional” region between the rostral and central regions, capillaries having no endothelial fenestrations, substantial numbers of vesicles, and narrow but perceptible pericapillary spaces were found, and (3) in the central and caudal regions, capillaries having abundant endothelial fenestrations and vesicles, expansive pericapillary labyrinths, and relatively thin walls were present.

These findings from light microscopic morphometry and electron microscopy in rats indicate a heterogeneity of capillary organization that shows topographical correspondence to the cytology and putative functions of the subfornical organ.