Ultrastructural examination of diffuse and specific tectopulvinar projections in the tree shrew

J Comp Neurol. 2008 Sep 1;510(1):24-46. doi: 10.1002/cne.21763.


Two pathways from the superior colliculus (SC) to the tree shrew pulvinar nucleus have been described, one in which the axons terminate in dense (or specific) patches and one in which the axon arbors are more diffusely organized (Luppino et al. [1988] J. Comp. Neurol. 273:67-86). As predicted by Lyon et al. ([2003] J. Comp. Neurol. 467:593-606), we found that anterograde labeling of the diffuse tectopulvinar pathway terminated in the acetylcholinesterase (AChE)-rich dorsal pulvinar (Pd), whereas the specific pathway terminated in the AChE-poor central pulvinar (Pc). Injections of retrograde tracers in Pd labeled non-gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA)-ergic wide-field vertical cells located in the lower stratum griseum superficiale and stratum opticum of the medial SC, whereas injections in Pc labeled similar cells in more lateral regions. At the ultrastructural level, we found that tectopulvinar terminals in both Pd and Pc contact primarily non-GABAergic dendrites. When present, however, synaptic contacts on GABAergic profiles were observed more frequently in Pc (31% of all contacts) compared with Pd (16%). Terminals stained for the type 2 vesicular glutamate transporter, a potential marker of tectopulvinar terminals, also contacted more GABAergic profiles in Pc (19%) compared with Pd (4%). These results provide strong evidence for the division of the tree shrew pulvinar into two distinct tectorecipient zones. The potential functions of these pathways are discussed.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biotin / analogs & derivatives
  • Dextrans
  • Female
  • Fluorescent Dyes
  • Glutamate Decarboxylase / metabolism
  • Male
  • Microscopy, Electron
  • Nerve Endings / metabolism
  • Nerve Endings / ultrastructure
  • Pulvinar / cytology
  • Pulvinar / physiology*
  • Superior Colliculi / cytology
  • Superior Colliculi / physiology*
  • Synapses / ultrastructure
  • Synaptic Transmission*
  • Tupaiidae / anatomy & histology*
  • Vesicular Glutamate Transport Proteins / metabolism
  • Visual Pathways / ultrastructure*


  • Dextrans
  • Fluorescent Dyes
  • Vesicular Glutamate Transport Proteins
  • biotinylated dextran amine
  • Biotin
  • Glutamate Decarboxylase