Transient features of the thalamic reticular nucleus in the human foetal brain


N. Ulfig, as above. E-mail:


The architectonic organization and neuronal types of the human foetal reticular nucleus (RN) – with special reference to transient characteristics – have been investigated using antisera against calretinin, parvalbumin and neurofilament epitopes of somata and dendrites (SMI 311). The RN consists of four subdivisions (clearly distinguishable in the 6/7th gestational month): The main portion appears as a prominent structure on account of its extension and high packing density of neurons which coexpress calretinin and parvalbumin. These two calcium-binding proteins are also expressed by the perireticular nucleus forming a conspicuous grey within the internal capsule. Perireticular cells form clusters which are in continuity with the main portion, globus pallidus, ganglionic eminence and pregeniculate nucleus. In double-labellings, a medial subnucleus stands out distinctly as it only expresses calretinin. SMI 311-immunopreparations show neurons revealing a high degree of diversification and elaborated dendritic trees. Several transient characteristics become obvious: the perireticular nucleus, not visible in the adult, represents a distinct entity in the human foetal brain. The main portion and the pregeniculate nucleus appearing as prominent greys are dramatically reduced in size later on. The percentage of RN-neurons expressing calretinin, the diversity of neuronal types and elaborated dendritic trees are reduced. The transient features can be correlated with the RN's putative functional roles in development: early RN-afferents to the dorsal thalamus may represent pioneer fibres providing guiding cues for outgrowing axons from or into the thalamus. Moreover, the RN may serve as an intermediate target for growing axons which are sorted and directed towards different final targets.