Immunohistochemical study of choline acetyltransferase-immunoreactive processes and cells innervating the pontomedullary reticular formation in the rat

J Comp Neurol. 1990 May 15;295(3):485-514. doi: 10.1002/cne.902950311.


The present study was undertaken to examine the cholinergic innervation of the brainstem reticular formation in an effort to understand the potential role of cholinergic neurons in processes of sensory-motor modulation and state control. The cholinergic cells and processes within the pontomedullary reticular formation were studied in the rat by application of peroxidase-antiperoxidase immunohistochemistry with silver intensification for choline-acetyltransferase (ChAT). ChAT-immunoreactive cells were located in the pontomesencephalic tegmentum within the laterodorsal and pedunculopontine tegmental (LDT and PPT) nuclei, where they numbered approximately 3,000 on each side and were scattered in the midline, medial, and lateral medullary reticular formation, where they numbered approximately 10,000 in total on each side. The cholinergic neurons within the reticular formation were commonly medium in size and gave rise to multiple dendrites that extended for considerable distances within the periventricular gray or the reticular formation, as is typical of other isodendritic reticular neurons. A prominent innervation of the entire pontomedullary reticular formation was evident by varicose ChAT-immunoreactive fibers that often surrounded large noncholinergic reticular neurons in a typical perisomatic pattern of termination, suggesting a potent influence of the cholinergic innervation on pontomedullary reticular neurons. The contribution of the pontomesencephalic cholinergic neurons to the innervation of the medial medullary and lateral pontine reticular formation was studied by retrograde transport of horseradish peroxidase conjugated wheat germ agglutinin (WGA-HRP) in combination with ChAT immunohistochemistry. A proportion of the cholinergic neurons within the laterodorsal tegmental nucleus (pars alpha) and the pedunculopontine tegmental nucleus were retrogradely labelled on the ipsilateral (10-15%) and contralateral (5-10%) sides from the medial medullary reticular formation, indicating a significant contribution to the cholinergic innervation of this region, which, however, also appeared to derive in part from intrinsic medullary cholinergic neurons. The major fiber system by which the medial medullary reticular formation was reached by the pontomesencephalic cholinergic neurons appeared to correspond to the lateral tegmentoreticular tract. Fibers passed from these cholinergic cells ventrally through the lateral pontine tegmentum, in the region of the subcoeruleus, where they also appeared to innervate by fibres en passage the noncholinergic neurons of the region. A significant proportion of the pontomesencephalic cholinergic neurons were retrogradely labelled from the lateral pontine tegmentum.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 400 WORDS)

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Choline O-Acetyltransferase / metabolism*
  • Cholinergic Fibers / enzymology*
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Male
  • Medulla Oblongata / cytology
  • Medulla Oblongata / enzymology*
  • Neural Pathways / cytology
  • Pons / cytology
  • Pons / enzymology*
  • Rats
  • Rats, Inbred Strains
  • Tegmentum Mesencephali / cytology
  • Tegmentum Mesencephali / enzymology*


  • Choline O-Acetyltransferase