Cholinergic innervation of the monkey amygdala: An immunohistochemical analysis with antisera to choline acetyltransferase

David G Amaral, J. L. Bassett

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The organization of the cholinergic innervation of the macaque monkey amygdaloid complex was investigated by means of immunohistochemical techniques and either a polyclonal antiserum or a monoclonal antibody directed against the specific synthetic enzyme choline acetyltransferase (ChAT). Adjacent series of sections were processed histochemically for the demonstration of the degradative enzyme acetylcholinesterase (AChE) or for cell bodies with thionin. The density of ChAT immunoreactivity differed substantially among the various nuclei and cortical regions of the amygdala. In general, the distribution of ChAT immunoreactivity paralleled the pattern of AChE staining. One notable exception was the presence of AChE containing cell bodies in addition to AChE positive fibers within nearly all of the nuclear and cortical regions. In contrast, ChAT immunoreactivity was associated only with fibers and terminals. The highest density of ChAT immunoreactive fibers and terminals was consistently observed in the magnocellular subdivision of the basal nucleus. Staining was substantially less dense in the more ventrally situated parvicellular subdivision. Medially, in the adjacent accessory basal nucleus, immunoreactive fibers and terminals were densest in the magnocellular and superficial subdivisions and least prominent in the parvicellular subdivision. Of the deep nuclei, the lateral nucleus generally contained the least ChAT immunoreactive terminals and processes. Only its more densely cellular ventrolateral portion contained appreciable fiber and terminal staining. One of the more distinctive patterns of ChAT immunoreactivity was seen in the nucleus of the lateral olfactory tract. Here, ChAT positive fibers formed pericellular basket plexuses around unstained cell bodies. This unique pattern of staining was used to delineate the boundaries of the nucleus and indicated that it is present for much of the rostrocaudal extent of the amygdala. Another region of conspicuous staining on the medial surface of the amygdala was the sulcal portion of the periamygdaloid cortex. This region, associated with the sulcus semiannularis and bordering the entorhinal cortex, consistently contained dense immunoreactivity. The central nucleus also presented a somewhat idiosyncratic pattern of ChAT staining. The lateral subdivision had a diffuse distribution of immunoreactivity in which focal patches of more densely stained terminals and occasional fine fibers were embedded. In contrast, the medial subdivision contained a larger number of thicker, stained fibers without diffuse background labeling. Of the remaining amygdaloid nuclei, the amygdalohippocampal area contained dense ChAT staining, whereas progressively lighter staining was seen in anterior amygdaloid, posterior cortical, anterior cortical, and medial nuclei.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)337-361
Number of pages25
JournalJournal of Comparative Neurology
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1989

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)


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