Cholinergic neurons in the rat septal complex: ultrastructural characterization and synaptic relations with catecholaminergic terminals.J Comp Neurol. 1991 Dec 01; 314(1):37-54.JC
Physiological and pharmacological studies have suggested that catecholamines modulate cholinergic neurons in the medial septal and diagonal band nuclei (i.e., the septal complex). Thus, the ultrastructural morphology of neurons containing choline acetyltransferase (ChAT), the biosynthetic enzyme for acetylcholine, and their relation to catecholaminergic terminals exhibiting immunoreactivity for the catecholamine synthesizing enzyme tyrosine hydroxylase (TH) were examined in the rat septal complex. Dual immunoautoradiographic and peroxidase anti-peroxidase labeling methods were used to simultaneously localize antibodies raised in rabbits against TH and from rat-mouse hybridomas against ChAT in single sections. At least two types of perikarya with ChAT-immunoreactivity (ChAT-I) were observed. The first type were large (20-30 microns), elongated or round, and contained a small indented nucleus with an abundant cytoplasm and an occasional lamellar body. The second type was also either ovoid or round but was medium-sized (15-20 microns) and contained a larger indented nucleus and a smaller amount of cytoplasm than the first type. Both types of perikarya as well as dendrites with ChAT-I were surrounded by astrocytic processes apposed to most of their plasmalemmal surfaces. The distribution and types of terminal associations (i.e., asymmetric synapses, symmetric synapses and appositions which lacked a membrane specialization in the plane of section analyzed) with ChAT-labeled perikarya and dendrites were quantitatively evaluated. The majority (68% of 197) of the presynaptic terminals were unlabeled; the remaining terminals were immunoreactive for TH (25%) or ChAT (7%). All three types of terminals contacted primarily the shafts of small dendrites and more rarely ChAT-labeled perikarya and large dendrites. ChAT-labeled terminals: (1) formed associations with unlabeled perikarya and dendrites (31% of 176); (2) formed associations with perikarya and dendrites with ChAT-I (7%); (3) contacted the same unlabeled perikarya and dendrite as a TH-containing terminal (21%); (4) were in apposition to TH-labeled terminals (25%); or (5) were either in apposition to unlabeled or ChAT-labeled terminals or lacked associations with any processes. The majority of associations formed by the terminals with ChAT-I were on the shafts of small dendrites. Moreover, most of the associations formed were either symmetric synapses or appositions not separated by astrocytes in the plane of section analyzed. These findings provide cellular substrates in the septal complex (1) for sparse synaptic input relative to astrocytic investment of cholinergic neurons and (2) for direct synaptic modulation of cholinergic and non-cholinergic neurons by catecholamines and/or acetylcholine. These findings have direct relevance to catecholaminergic-cholinergic interactions and to the neuropathological basis for Alzheimer's disease.