Thalamic distribution of zinc-rich terminal fields and neurons of origin in the rat

Neuroscience. 2001;102(4):863-84. doi: 10.1016/s0306-4522(00)00472-3.


Several cortico-cortical and limbic-related circuits are enriched in zinc, which is considered as an important modulator of glutamatergic transmission. While heavy metals have been detected in the thalamus, the specific presence of zinc has not been examined in this region. We have used two highly sensitive variations of the Timm method to study the zinc-rich innervation in the rat thalamus, which was compared to the distribution of acetylcholinesterase activity. The origin of some of these zinc-rich projections was also investigated by means of retrograde transport after intracerebral infusions of sodium selenium (Na2SeO3). The overall zinc staining in the thalamus was much lower than in the neocortex, striatum or basal forebrain; however, densely stained terminal fields were observed in the dorsal tip of the reticular thalamic nucleus, the anterodorsal and lateral dorsal thalamic nuclei and the zona incerta. In addition, moderately stained zinc-rich terminal fields were found in the rostral intralaminar nuclei, nucleus reuniens and lateral habenula. Intracerebral infusions of Na2SeO3 in the lateral dorsal nucleus resulted in retrogradely labeled neurons that were located in the postsubiculum, and also in the pre- and parasubiculum. These results are the first to establish the existence of a zinc-rich subicular-thalamic projection. Similar infusions in either the intralaminar nuclei or the zona incerta resulted in labeling of neurons in several brainstem structures related to the reticular formation. Our results provide morphological evidence for zinc modulation of glutamatergic inputs to highly selective thalamic nuclei, arising differentially from either cortical limbic areas or from brainstem ascending activation systems.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acetylcholinesterase / analysis
  • Animals
  • Anterior Thalamic Nuclei / chemistry
  • Anterior Thalamic Nuclei / cytology
  • Chemical Precipitation
  • Diagonal Band of Broca / chemistry
  • Diagonal Band of Broca / cytology
  • Geniculate Bodies / chemistry
  • Geniculate Bodies / cytology
  • Glutamic Acid / metabolism
  • Habenula / chemistry
  • Habenula / cytology
  • Intralaminar Thalamic Nuclei / chemistry
  • Intralaminar Thalamic Nuclei / cytology
  • Mediodorsal Thalamic Nucleus / chemistry
  • Mediodorsal Thalamic Nucleus / cytology
  • Midline Thalamic Nuclei / chemistry
  • Midline Thalamic Nuclei / cytology
  • Neurons / chemistry*
  • Neurons / enzymology
  • Preoptic Area / chemistry
  • Preoptic Area / cytology
  • Presynaptic Terminals / chemistry
  • Presynaptic Terminals / enzymology
  • Rats
  • Rats, Wistar
  • Reticular Formation / chemistry
  • Reticular Formation / cytology
  • Selenium
  • Septal Nuclei / chemistry
  • Septal Nuclei / cytology
  • Thalamus / chemistry*
  • Thalamus / cytology*
  • Ventral Thalamic Nuclei / chemistry
  • Ventral Thalamic Nuclei / cytology
  • Zinc / analysis*


  • Glutamic Acid
  • Acetylcholinesterase
  • Selenium
  • Zinc