The efferent projections of the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN) in the golden hamster have been examined by using the anterograde tracer Phaseolus vulgaris leucoagglutinin (Pha-L). SCN projections were further localized through a combination of restricted SCN-lesions and immunocytochemistry for three well-known peptidergic transmitters contained in SCN neurons, viz. vasopressin (VP), vasoactive intestinal peptide (VIP), and gastrin-releasing peptide (GRP). Thus, major terminal fields of SCN-derived VP were detected in the medial preoptic nucleus, the anterior part of the paraventricular nucleus of the thalamus (PVA), the medial parvicellular part of the paraventricular nucleus of the hypothalamus (PVN), and the medial part of the dorsomedial nucleus of the hypothalamus (DMH). VIP-containing projections from the SCN were discovered in the PVA, anterior and dorsal parvicellular divisions of the PVN, subparaventricular area, and medial DMH. Efferent fibers from the SCN containing GRP were restricted to the subparaventricular area, medial DMH, and supraoptic nucleus. In addition, Pha-L tracing indicated the existence of SCN projections which could not be ascribed to one of the presently investigated peptides. Furthermore, a pronounced innervation of the contralateral SCN was observed, of which the neurotransmitter remains to be established.
The results of the present study indicate that the different neuronal populations in the SCN, as characterized by their transmitter content, also show a clear diversity in their preferential target areas. © 1993 Wiley-Liss, Inc.