Immunocytochemical localization of cholinergic terminals in the region of the nucleus basalis magnocellularis of the rat: a correlated light and electron microscopic study.Neuroscience 1990; 36(2):361-76N
The cholinergic circuitry in the nucleus basalis magnocellularis of the rat was investigated in a correlated light and electron microscopic study by using monoclonal antibodies against the acetylcholine-synthesizing enzyme, choline acetyltransferase, following the unlabelled antibody peroxidase-antiperoxidase immunocytochemical procedure. After the immunocytochemical approach, large cholinergic cells and a few immunoreactive fibres exhibiting a varicose appearance, were detected by light microscopy in portions of the nucleus basalis magnocellularis located within the anatomical limits of the globus pallidus, mostly in its ventromedial part. Cholinergic neurons and fibre-like structures were also found within the substantia innominata on the edge of globus pallidus. The same material studied by light microscopy was analysed with the electron microscope. At the ultrastructural level, the immunopositive neurons showed the same cytological characteristics and pattern of synaptic input as cholinergic basal forebrain cells. Additionally, scarce immunoreactive preterminal axons and terminal boutons were detected in the region. The immunoreactive terminals were scattered or formed occasional clusters and appeared as heavily immunostained vesicle-filled boutons making exclusively axodendritic synaptic contacts principally with immunonegative distal dendrites. Both symmetric and asymmetric synaptic contacts established between these structures were detected, although the symmetric contacts were the more numerous. The surface of postsynaptic immunonegative dendrites in asymmetric synaptic contact with immunoreactive terminals was generally covered by terminals that lacked detectable immunoreactivity. In contrast, those in symmetric synaptic contact with labelled terminals showed much sparser input from immunonegative terminals, suggesting that they may belong to interneurons. Very rarely, cholinergic terminals were detected in asymmetric synaptic contact with dendrites which also contained positive immunoreaction product. Asymmetric contacts were frequently characterized by the presence of subjunctional dense bodies. The detection of cholinergic terminals in the region of the nucleus basalis magnocellularis of the rat indicates that this region not only contains cholinergic projecting neurons, but receives a cholinergic input itself. Results of this study provide evidence of the existence of a cholinergic transmission in the basal forebrain of the rat, and also that acetylcholine might play a role in the regulation of the extrinsic cortical cholinergic innervation. The possible sources of this innervation are discussed.