The cytoarchitecture of the brain is disrupted severely in reeler mice. This is caused by a deficiency in the protein, Reelin, which is essential for the normal migration and positioning of neurons during development. Although cell migration is clearly affected by the reeler mutation, it is believed that the total number of neurons is not. Thus, we were surprised to find an unusually large number of calretinin-immunopositive cells, presumably Cajal-Retzius cells, in the molecular layer of the adult reeler hippocampus (Deller et al. ; Exp. Neurol. 156:239-253). This suggested that the reeler mutation affects the number of neurons in the hippocampus. In order to verify this hypothesis, unbiased stereological methods were employed. Calretinin immunostaining was used as a marker for Cajal-Retzius cells in control as well as reeler mice and Nissl staining was used to identify hippocampal principal neurons. Total numbers of calretinin-immunopositive cells, calretinin-immunoreactive Cajal-Retzius cells, and Nissl-stained neurons were estimated in different subfields of the reeler and the control hippocampus. Stereological estimates (P < 0.05) revealed that the total number of calretinin-immunopositive and Cajal-Retzius cells in reeler mice are 1.5 and 2.1 times that of controls, respectively. No significant difference in total neuron number was found in any hippocampal subfield. These data demonstrate that the reeler mutation affects the number of calretinin-immunoreactive Cajal-Retzius cells in the adult hippocampus, probably due to a reduced excitatory innervation by entorhinal terminals in the absence of reelin. However, the reeler mutation does not affect mechanisms that determine total hippocampal neuron number.
Copyright 2001 Wiley-Liss, Inc.