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Keywords:

  • amygdala;
  • basal nucleus of meynert;
  • choline acetyltransferase;
  • Phaseolus vulgaris leucoagglutinin

Abstract

The afferent connections of the substantia innominata (SI) in the rat were determined employing the anterograde axonal transport of Phaseolus vulgaris leucoagglutinin (PHA-L) and the retrograde transport of wheat germ agglutinin conjugated to horseradish peroxidase (WGA-HRP), in combination with histochemical procedures to characterize the neuropil of the SI and identify cholinergic cells. Both neurochemical and connectional data establish that the SI is organized into a dorsal and a ventral division. Each of these divisions is strongly affiliated with a different region of the amygdala, and, together with its amygdalar affiliate, forms part of one of two largely distinct constellations of interconnected forebrain and brainstem cell groups.

The dorsal SI receives selective innervation from the lateral part of the bed nucleus of the stria terminalis, the central and basolateral nuclei of the amygdala, the fundus of the striatum, distinctive perifornical and caudolateral zones of the lateral hypothalamus, and caudal brainstem structures including the dorsal raphe nucleus, parabrachial nucleus, and nucleus of the solitary tract. Projections preferentially directed to the ventral SI arise from the medial part of the bed nucleus of the stria terminalis, the rostral two-thirds of the medial nucleus of the amygdala, a large region of the rat amygdala that lies ventral to the central nucleus, the medial preoptic area, anterior hypothalamus, medialmost lateral hypothalamus, and the ventromedial hypothalamus. Both SI divisions appear to receive afferents from the dorsomedial and posterior hypothalamus, supramammillary region, ventral tegmental area, and the peripeduncular area of the midbrain. Projections to the SI whose selectivity was not determined originate from medial prefrontal, insular, perirhinal, and entorhinal cortex and from midline thalamic nuclei. Findings from both PHA-L and WGA-HRP experiments additionally indicate that cell groups preferentially innervating a single SI division maintain numerous projections to one another, thus forming a tightly linked assembly of structures.

In the rat, cholinergic neurons that are scattered throughout the SI and in parts of the globus pallidus make up a cell population equivalent to the primate basal nucleus of Meynert (Mesulam et al.: Neuroscience 10:1185–1201, '83). PHA-L-filled axons, labelled from lectin deposits in the dorsal raphe nucleus, peripeduncular area, ventral tegmental area, or caudomedial hypothalamus were occasionally seen to approach individual cholinergic neurons in the SI, and to contact the surface of such cells with axonal varicosities (putative synaptic boutons). Pending confirmation in an electron microscopic study, such findings suggest that several sources of innervation of the SI may provide afferents to the cholinergic cells in the region.