Efferent projections of the subthalamic nucleus in the squirrel monkey as studied by the PHA-L anterograde tracing method

J Comp Neurol. 1990 Apr 8;294(2):306-23. doi: 10.1002/cne.902940213.


The organization of the efferent connections of the subthalamic nucleus was studied in the squirrel monkey (Saimiri sciureus) by using the lectin Phaseolus vulgaris-leucoagglutinin (PHA-L) as an anterograde tracer. At the level of the basal forebrain, anterogradely labeled fibers and axon terminals were mostly found in the striatopallidal complex and the substantia innominata. In cases in which the PHA-L injection sites were placed in the central or the lateral third of the subthalamic nucleus, numerous anterogradely labeled fibers were seen to arise from the injection loci and innervate massively the globus pallidus. At pallidal levels the fibers formed bands lying parallel and adjacent to the medullary laminae. The number and the complexity of the topographical organization of these bands varied with the size and the location of the PHA-L injection site. When examined at a higher magnification, the bands of subthalamopallidal fibers appeared as rich plexuses of short axon collaterals with small bulbous enlargements that closely surrounded the cell bodies and primary dendrites of pallidal cells. In contrast, PHA-L injection involving the medial tip of the subthalamic nucleus did not produce bandlike fiber patterns in the globus pallidus. Instead, the labeled fibers formed a diffuse plexus occupying the ventral part of the rostral pole of the globus pallidus as well as the subcommissural pallidal region. The substantia innominata contained a moderate number of labeled fibers and axon terminals following injection of PHA-L in the medial tip of the subthalamic nucleus. A small to moderate number of anterogradely labeled fibers were seen in the putamen after all PHA-L injections. These subthalamostriatal fibers were long, linear, and branched infrequently. At midbrain level the substantia nigra contained a significant number of anterogradely labeled fibers and axon terminals following PHA-L injection in the subthalamic nucleus. The subthalamonigral fibers descended along the ventromedial part of the cerebral peduncle and swept laterally to reach their target. Most of these fibers formed small plexuses along the base of the pars reticulata, whereas a few others ascended along the cell columns of the pars compacta that impinged deeply within the pars reticulata. More caudally in the brainstem, a small number of fibers occurred in the area of the pedunculopontine nucleus and in the periaqueductal gray. These findings indicate that besides its well-known connection with the pallidum, the subthalamic nucleus gives rise to widespread projections to other components of the basal ganglia in primates.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Basal Ganglia / cytology*
  • Brain Stem / cytology*
  • Cebidae / anatomy & histology*
  • Corpus Striatum / cytology*
  • Efferent Pathways / anatomy & histology
  • Globus Pallidus / cytology*
  • Phytohemagglutinins
  • Saimiri / anatomy & histology*
  • Substantia Innominata / cytology*


  • Phytohemagglutinins
  • leukoagglutinins, plants