Cholinergic innervation of the superior colliculus in the cat

J Comp Neurol. 1989 Sep 22;287(4):495-514. doi: 10.1002/cne.902870408.


The superficial and intermediate gray layers of the superior colliculus are heavily innervated by fibers that utilize the neurotransmitter acetylcholine. The distribution, ultrastructure, and sources of the cholinergic innervation of these layers have been examined in the cat by using a combination of immuno-cytochemical and axonal transport methods. Putative cholinergic fibers and cells were localized by means of a monoclonal antibody to choline acetyltransferase (ChAT). ChAT immunoreactive fibers are distributed throughout the depth of the superior colliculus, with particularly dense zones of innervation in the upper part of the superficial grey layer and in the intermediate grey layer. Within the superficial grey layer, the fibers form a continuous, dense band, whereas within the intermediate grey layer the fibers are arranged in clusters or patches. Although the patches are present throughout the rostrocaudal extent of the superior colliculus, they are most prominent in middle to caudal sections. The structure of the ChAT immunoreactive terminals was examined electron microscopically. The appearance of the terminals is similar in the superficial and intermediate grey layers. They contain closely packed, mostly round vesicles, and form contacts with medium-sized dendrites that exhibit small, but prominent postsynaptic densities; a few of the terminals contact vesicle-containing profiles. To identify the sources of the cholinergic input to the superior colliculus, injections of wheat germ agglutinin conjugated to horseradish peroxidase (WGA-HRP) were made in the superior colliculus and the sections were processed to demonstrate both the retrograde transport of WGA-HRP and ChAT immunoreactivity. Neurons containing both labels were found in the parabigeminal nucleus, and in the lateral dorsal and pedunculopontine tegmental nuclei of the pontomesencephalic reticular formation. Almost every cell in these nuclei that contained retrograde label was also immunoreactive for ChAT. The similarities between the laminar distributions of the ChAT terminals and the terminations of the pathway from the parabigeminal nucleus (Graybiel: Brain Res. 145:365-374, '78) support the view that the latter nucleus is a source of the cholinergic fibers in the superficial grey layer. The possibility that the pedunculopontine tegmental nucleus is a source of cholinergic fibers in the deep layers was tested by examining the distribution of labeled fibers following injections of WGA-HRP into this region of the tegmentum. Patches of labeled terminals were found in the intermediate grey layer that resemble in distribution the patches of ChAT immunoreactive fibers in this layer.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 400 WORDS)

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antibodies, Monoclonal
  • Cats
  • Choline O-Acetyltransferase / metabolism
  • Cholinergic Fibers / enzymology
  • Cholinergic Fibers / physiology*
  • Cholinergic Fibers / ultrastructure
  • Horseradish Peroxidase
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Microscopy, Electron
  • Neural Pathways / anatomy & histology
  • Superior Colliculi / cytology*
  • Wheat Germ Agglutinin-Horseradish Peroxidase Conjugate
  • Wheat Germ Agglutinins


  • Antibodies, Monoclonal
  • Wheat Germ Agglutinin-Horseradish Peroxidase Conjugate
  • Wheat Germ Agglutinins
  • Horseradish Peroxidase
  • Choline O-Acetyltransferase