Development of the noradrenergic fiber innervation of the rat hippocampus by the locus coeruleus was examined immunohistochemically in fixed tissue from animals aged 4 days through 55 days postnatal. The presence of tyrosine hydroxylase (TH) and dopamine-beta-hydroxylase (DBH) immunoreactive cells and fibers was evaluated in sections of hippocampus and locus coeruleus. Large, multipolar TH- and DBH-positive cells with long beaded fibers were visible within locus coeruleus at all ages; no immunopositive cell bodies were found in hippocampus. In hippocampal sections from mature animals (PN55), the highest density of DBH-stained fibers was found in stratum lucidum of CA3 and in the hilus and inner molecular layer of the dentate gyrus. Whereas similar patterns of fiber positivity were found at PN21 and PN10 (although with somewhat reduced density of immunopositive fibers), the pattern was quite different at PN4. Although fiber staining was relatively sparse at PN4, relative density of DBH fibers was highest in stratum radiatum of CA1 and subiculum. This change in staining pattern suggests that noradrenergic function in hippocampus may change as the rat matures. Double immunofluorescence techniques showed an overlap of DBH and TH positive fibers in all hippocampal regions at all ages. DBH immunostaining appeared to be somewhat more sensitive than the TH staining. These data made it impossible to confirm the presence of significant numbers of nonnoradrenergic, catecholamine-containing fibers in hippocampus.
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