Cholinergic systems in the rat brain: IV. Descending projections of the pontomesencephalic tegmentum

Brain Res Bull. 1989 Dec;23(6):519-40. doi: 10.1016/0361-9230(89)90197-4.


Descending projections from cholinergic neurons in the pedunculopontine and laterodorsal tegmental nuclei, collectively referred to as the pontomesencephalotegmental (PMT) cholinergic complex, were studied by use of the fluorescent retrograde tracers fluorogold, true blue, or Evans Blue in combination with choline acetyltransferase (ChAT) immunohistochemistry of acetylcholinesterase (AChE) pharmacohistochemistry. Pedunculopontine somata positive for ChAT or staining intensely for AChE were retrogradely labeled with fluorescent tracers following infusions into the motor nuclei of cranial nerves 5, 7, and 12. ChAT-positive cells in both the pedunculopontine and laterodorsal tegmental nuclei demonstrated projections to the vestibular nuclei, the spinal nucleus of the 5th cranial nerve, deep cerebellar nuclei, pontine nuclei, locus ceruleus, raphe magnus nucleus, dorsal raphe nucleus, median raphe nucleus, the medullary reticular nuclei, and the oral and caudal pontine reticular nuclei. Fluorescent tracers used in combination with AChE pharmacohistochemistry corroborated these projections and, in addition, provided evidence for cholinergic pontomesencephalic projections to the lateral reticular nucleus and inferior olive. The majority of retrogradely labeled neurons demonstrating ChAT-like immunoreactivity were found ipsilateral to the injection site, but, in all cases, tracer-containing cholinergic cells contralateral to the infused side of the brain were detected also. More retrogradely labeled cells containing ChAT were observed in the pedunculopontine tegmental than in the laterodorsal tegmental nucleus following tracer injections at all sites with the exceptions of the locus ceruleus and dorsal raphe nucleus where the converse profile was observed. None of the pedunculopontine or laterodorsal tegmental cells immunopositive for ChAT or stained intensely for AChE contained retrogradely transported tracers following dye infusions into the cerebellar cortex or cervical spinal cord. Triple-label experiments using two tracers infused into different sites in the same animal revealed that individual ChAT-immunoreactive cells in the PMT cholinergic complex projected to more than one hindbrain site in some cases and had ascending projections as well. Certain ChAT-positive somata in the pedunculopontine and laterodorsal tegmental nuclei were found in close association with several fiber tracts, including the superior cerebellar peduncle, lateral lemniscus, dorsal tegmental tract, and medial longitudinal fasciculus.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Acetylcholinesterase / metabolism
  • Animals
  • Brain Mapping
  • Central Nervous System / anatomy & histology*
  • Choline O-Acetyltransferase / metabolism
  • Cholinergic Fibers / enzymology
  • Cholinergic Fibers / physiology*
  • Female
  • Fluorescent Dyes
  • Rats
  • Rats, Inbred Strains
  • Tegmentum Mesencephali / cytology*


  • Fluorescent Dyes
  • Choline O-Acetyltransferase
  • Acetylcholinesterase