Subpopulations of somatostatin-immunoreactive non-pyramidal neurons in the amygdala and adjacent external capsule project to the basal forebrain: evidence for the existence of GABAergic projection neurons in the cortical nuclei and basolateral nuclear complex

Front Neural Circuits. 2012 Jul 24:6:46. doi: 10.3389/fncir.2012.00046. eCollection 2012.


The hippocampus and amygdala are key structures of the limbic system whose connections include reciprocal interactions with the basal forebrain (BF). The hippocampus receives both cholinergic and GABAergic afferents from the medial septal area of the BF. Hippocampal projections back to the medial septal area arise from non-pyramidal GABAergic neurons that express somatostatin (SOM), calbindin (CB), and neuropeptide Y (NPY). Recent experiments in our lab have demonstrated that the basolateral amygdala, like the hippocampus, receives both cholinergic and GABAergic afferents from the BF. These projections arise from neurons in the substantia innominata (SI) and ventral pallidum (VP). It remained to be determined, however, whether the amygdala has projections back to the BF that arise from GABAergic non-pyramidal neurons. This question was investigated in the present study by combining Fluorogold (FG) retrograde tract tracing with immunohistochemistry for GABAergic non-pyramidal cell markers, including SOM, CB, NPY, parvalbumin, calretinin, and glutamic acid decarboxylase (GAD). FG injections into the BF produced a diffuse array of retrogradely labeled neurons in many nuclei of the amygdala. The great majority of amygdalar FG+ neurons did not express non-pyramidal cell markers. However, a subpopulation of non-pyramidal SOM+ neurons, termed "long-range non-pyramidal neurons" (LRNP neurons), in the external capsule, basolateral amygdala, and cortical and medial amygdalar nuclei were FG+. About one-third of the SOM+ LRNP neurons were CB+ or NPY+, and one-half were GAD+. It remains to be determined if these inhibitory amygdalar projections to the BF, like those from the hippocampus, are important for regulating synchronous oscillations in the amygdalar-BF network.

Keywords: Fluorogold; GABAergic projection neurons; amygdala; basal forebrain; calbindin; neuropeptide Y; somatostatin.