The efferent connections of the substantia innominata (SI) were investigated employing the anterograde axonal transport of Phaseolus vulgaris leuoagglutinin (PHA-L) and the retrograde transport of wheat germ agglutinin conjugated to horseradish peroxidase (WGA-HRP). The projections of the SI largely reciprocate the afferent connections described by Grove (J. Comp. Neurol. 277:315–346, '88) and thus further distinguish a dorsal and a ventral division in the SI. Efferents from both the dorsal and ventral divisions of the SI descend as far caudal as the ventral tegmental area, substantia nigra, and peripeduncular area, but projections to pontine and medullary structures appear to originate mainly from the dorsal SI. Within the amygdala and hypothalamus, which receive widespread innervation from the SI, the dorsal SI projects preferentially to the lateral part of the bed nucleus of the stria terminalis; the lateral, basolateral, and central nuclei of the amygdala; the lateral preoptic area; paraventricular nucleus of the hypothalamus; and certain parts of the lateral hypothalamus, prominently including the perifornical and caudolateral zones described previously. The ventral SI projects more heavily to the medial part of the bed nucleus of the stria terminalis; the anterior amygdaloid area; a ventromedial amygdaloid region that includes but is not limited to the medial nucleus; the lateral and medial preoptic areas; and the anterior hypothalamus. Modest projections reach the lateral hypothalamus, with at least a slight preference for the medial part of the region, and the ventromedial and arcuate hypothalamic nuclei.
Both SI divisions appear to innervate the dorsomedial and posterior hypothalamus and the supramammillary region. In the thalamus, the subparafascicular, gustatory, and midline nuclei receive a light innervation from the SI, which projects more densely to the medial part of the mediodorsal nucleus and the reticular nucleus. Cortical efferents from at least the midrostrocaudal part of the SI are distributed primarily in piriform, infralimbic, prelimbic, anterior cingulate, granular and agranular insular, perirhinal, and entorhinal cortices as well as in the main and accessory olfactory bulbs.
The cells of origin for many projections arising from the SI were identified as cholinergic or noncholinergic by combining the retrograde transport of WGA-HRP with histochemical and immunohistochemical procedures to demonstrate acetylcholinesterase activity or choline acetyltransferase immunoreactivity. Most of the descending efferents of the SI appear to arise primarily or exclusively from noncholinergic cells.
Overall, the subcortical projections of the dorsal division of the SI were found to be strikingly reminiscent of those reported previously for two adjoining structures: the lateral part of the bed nucleus of the stria terminalis and the central nucleus of the amygdala. A second tissue continuum with common subcortical efferents appears to be formed by the medial part of the bed nucleus, ventral SI, and the rostral parts of both the medial nucleus of the amygdala and an amygdaloid region that lies ventral to the central nucleus and dorsal to the cortical nuclei (Krettek and Price: J. Comp. Neurol. 178:225–254, '78; Price and Amaral: J. Neurosci. 1:1242–1359, '81; Holstege et al.: Exp. Brain Res. 58:379–391, '85; Grove: J. Comp. Neurol. 277:315–346, '88).