Although it is well established that the activity of pyramidal projection neurons in the basolateral amygdala (ABL) is controlled by gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA)ergic inhibitory interneurons, very little is known about the connections of specific interneuronal subpopulations in this region. In the present study, immunohistochemical techniques were used at the light and electron microscopic levels to identify specific populations of interneurons and to analyze their connections with each other and with unlabeled presumptive pyramidal neurons. Double-labeling immunofluorescence experiments revealed that antibodies to vasoactive intestinal peptide (VIP) and calbindin-D28K (CB) labeled two separate interneuronal subpopulations in the ABL. Light microscopic double-labeling immunoperoxidase experiments demonstrated that many VIP-positive (VIP+) axon terminals formed intimate synaptic-like contacts with the CB-positive (CB+) neurons and that both CB+ and VIP+ terminals often contributed to the formation of pericellular baskets that surrounded unlabeled perikarya of pyramidal neurons. By using a dual immunoperoxidase/immunogold-silver procedure at the ultrastructural level, it was found that 30% of VIP+ terminals in the anterior subdivision of the basolateral nucleus innervated interneurons that were either CB+ (25%) or VIP+ (5%). A smaller percentage (15%) of CB+ terminals formed synapses with labeled interneurons. Both VIP+ and CB+ terminals also innervated unlabeled perikarya, dendrites, and spines, most of which probably belonged to pyramidal neurons. The interconnections between interneurons may be important for disinhibitory mechanisms and the mediation of rhythmic oscillations in the ABL.
Copyright 2003 Wiley-Liss, Inc.