Serotonin innervation in adult rat neostriatum. II. Ultrastructural features: a radioautographic and immunocytochemical study

Brain Res. 1989 Feb 27;481(1):67-86. doi: 10.1016/0006-8993(89)90486-1.


High-resolution radioautography after cerebroventricular administration of tritiated serotonin (5-HT) and PAP immunocytochemistry with an antiserum against 5-HT-glutaraldehyde conjugate (kindly donated by M. Geffard) were used in parallel to investigate the intrinsic and relational fine structural features of 5-HT axon varicosities (terminals) in the neostriatum of the adult rat. The uptake-labeled varicosities were examined in single thin sections from a paraventricular sector of neostriatum, whereas their immunostained counterparts were viewed in serial thin sections from the same paraventricular sector plus a dorsal neostriatal sector. The two approaches yielded complementary results in terms of varicosity dimensions, synaptic features and appositional relationships. Serotonin axon terminals were generally small and, as measured in immunostained material, even smaller in the dorsal than in the paraventricular neostriatum. Their internal features, best viewed in radioautographs, included small pleomorphic synaptic vesicles with occasional large granular vesicles and mitochondria. Junctional 5-HT terminals from both the paraventricular and the dorsal neostriatal sectors synapsed exclusively, and with equal frequency, on dendritic spines or shafts, almost always with asymmetrical membrane differentiations. The proportion of junctional varicosities, however, was very low in serial (immunocytochemical) as well as single (radioautographic) thin sections. Only 10-13% of 5-HT varicosities from either the paraventricular or the dorsal neostriatum exhibited a synaptic junction, in contrast with a junctional incidence of at least 70% for randomly selected axonal varicosities similarly sampled in the surrounding neuropil. Serotonin axon terminals, whether or not synaptic, were closely apposed to a variety of structures comprising mostly other axon terminals, dendritic spines and branches, but rarely neuronal somata. The synaptic and appositional features of immunostained 5-HT varicosities were similar for both the dorsal and the paraventricular neostriatum. In this context, it is likely that the effects of 5-HT in the neostriatum are exerted upon a multiplicity of cellular target sites in addition to the restricted number of dendritic spines and shafts synaptically contacted by this type of monoamine terminal.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Corpus Striatum / metabolism*
  • Corpus Striatum / ultrastructure
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Male
  • Microscopy, Electron
  • Nerve Endings / metabolism*
  • Nerve Endings / ultrastructure
  • Rats
  • Rats, Inbred Strains
  • Serotonin / metabolism*
  • Synapses / classification
  • Synapses / ultrastructure


  • Serotonin