Afferent projections to the mammillary complex of the rat, with special reference to those from surrounding hypothalamic regions

J Comp Neurol. 1992 Jul 8;321(2):277-99. doi: 10.1002/cne.903210208.


To better understand the functional organization of the mammillary nuclei, we investigated the afferents to this nuclear complex in the rat with iontophoretically injected wheat germ agglutinin conjugated to horseradish peroxidase. Particular attention was paid to tracing local hypothalamic afferents to these nuclei. Injections into the medial mammillary nucleus (MMN) revealed strong projections from the subicular region, and weaker projections from the prefrontal cortex, medial septum, and the nucleus of the diagonal band of Broca. Other descending subcortical projections to the MMN arise from the anterior and the lateral hypothalamic area, the medial preoptic area, and the bed nucleus of the stria terminalis. Ascending afferents to the MMN were found to originate in the raphe and various tegmental nuclei. Following all injections into the MMN, labelled neurons were found in nuclei surrounding the mammillary body. The lateral and posterior subdivisions of the tuberomammillary nucleus projected mainly to the pars medianus and pars medialis of the MMN. The dorsal and ventral premammillary nuclei projected to the pars lateralis of the MMN. The supramammillary nucleus at rostral level had a small projection to the pars medialis and lateralis of the MMN. However, the most obvious projection from this nucleus was to the pars posterior of the MMN, chiefly from the lateral part of the caudal supramammillary nucleus. Injections into the lateral mammillary nucleus revealed inputs from the presubiculum, parasubiculum, septal region, dorsal tegmental nucleus, dorsal raphe nucleus, and periaqueductal gray. In addition, the lateral mammillary nucleus was found to receive a moderate projection from the medial part of the supramammillary nucleus and stronger projections from the lateral part of the caudal supramammillary nucleus. A very light projection was also seen from the lateral and posterior subdivisions of the tuberomammillary nucleus. These findings add to our knowledge of the extensive and complex connectivity of the mammillary nuclei. In particular, the local connections we have demonstrated with the supramammillary and tuberomammillary nuclei indicate the existence of significant local circuits as well as circuits involving more distant brain regions such as the septal nuclei, subiculum, prefrontal cortex, and brain stem tegmentum.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Afferent Pathways / cytology
  • Afferent Pathways / physiology
  • Animals
  • Cerebral Cortex / cytology
  • Cerebral Cortex / physiology
  • Female
  • Histocytochemistry
  • Horseradish Peroxidase
  • Hypothalamus / anatomy & histology
  • Hypothalamus / physiology*
  • Male
  • Mammillary Bodies / physiology*
  • Neurons, Afferent / physiology*
  • Neurotransmitter Agents / physiology
  • Rats
  • Wheat Germ Agglutinin-Horseradish Peroxidase Conjugate
  • Wheat Germ Agglutinins


  • Neurotransmitter Agents
  • Wheat Germ Agglutinin-Horseradish Peroxidase Conjugate
  • Wheat Germ Agglutinins
  • Horseradish Peroxidase