Immunohistochemical studies on the localization and distribution of monoamine neuron systems in the rat brain

Author(s): Hökfelt T, Johansson O, Fuxe K, Goldstein M, Park D


The localization and distribution of tyrosine hydroxylase (TH), the first enzyme in the catecholamine synthesis, in the mes- and diencephalon has been studied with the indirect immunofluorescence technique of Coons and collaborators. Principally, TH was present in neuron systems with a distribution similar to known dopamine, noradrenaline and adrenaline systems. The present data, taken together with published and some unpublished results, indicate that all parts of most central dopamine neurons, i.e. cell body, dendrites, axon and nerve terminals, appear strongly fluorescent. The adrenaline neurons also appeared strongly fluorescent, except for their axons, which only exhibited a weak fluorescence. Only cell bodies of noradrenaline neurons were strongly fluorescent, whereas the nerve terminals and axons showed a weak or moderate fluorescence intensity. The fine noradrenaline nerve terminals in some areas, such as the thalamus, were invisible or, under favourable conditions, weakly fluorescent. Therefore, in the present study we are mainly dealing with the dopamine neurons of the upper brain stem. Our results demonstrate a widespread occurrence of TH-positive neuron systems in the mes- and diencephalon. The different mesencephalic dopamine systems and their ascending projections were visualized. Numerous TH-positive cell bodies were present along the ventricle system extending from the aqueductus cerebri to the most cranial periventricular parts of the third ventricle. The caudal part of these neurons, consisting of very small cell bodies, belong to the dorsal periventricular system described by Lindvall and Björklund. Several TH-positive cell bodies were also observed in the inferior collicle of young animals. In the superficial layers of the inferior collicles TH positive nerve terminals were seen. At the hypothalamic level the A11 to A14 cell groups as well as some additonal cell bodies and extensive nerve terminal plexuses appeared strongly fluorescent. The differences in the intensity of the TH-related immunofluorescence between various brain regions and between various neuron systems may well reflect differences in enzyme levels between the various catacholamine systems rather than be due to the existence of different types of TH.

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