• suprachiasmatic nucleus;
  • circadian rhythm;
  • GABA;
  • neuropeptide Y;
  • enkephalin


The intergeniculate leaflet (IGL) in the rat is a distinctive subdivision of the lateral geniculate complex that participates in the regulation of circadian function through its projections to the circadian pacemaker, the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN) of the hypothalamus. The present investigation was undertaken to provide a precise definition of the IGL and a characterization of its neuronal organization including neuronal morphology, chemical phenotype, connections, and synaptic organization. The IGL extends the entire rostrocaudal lenght of the geniculate complex and contains a distinct population of small to medium neurons. In Golgi preparations, the neurons are multipolar with dendrites largely confined to the IGL. The neurons can be subdivided into three groups on the basis of neurotransmitter content and projections: (1) neurons that contain GABA and neuropeptide Y and project to the SCN; (2) neurons that contain GABA and enkephalin and project to the contralateral IGL; and (3) a small group of neurons that projects to the SCN but not characterized as yet by neurotransmitter content. The IGL receives dense, bilateral input from retinal ganglion cells and dense substance P input of unknown origin. A number of neurons in the anterior hypothalamic area and, particualrly, the retrochiasmatic area project to the IGL, and there are sparse projections from brainstem monoamine and cholinergic neurons. The synaptic organization of the IGL is complex with afferents terminating in glomerular complexes that include axoaxonic synapatic interactions. Virtually all IGL afferents synapse upon dendrites and spines, with the densest synaptic input occurring on the distal portions of the dendritic arbor. The organization of the IGL and its connections as revealed in this analysis is in accord with its role in the integration of visual input with other information to provide feedback regulation of the SCN integration of visual input with other information to provide feedback regulation of the SCN pacemaker. © 1994 Wiley-Liss, Inc.