Individual axons that form the hyperdirect pathway in Macaca fascicularis were visualized following microiontophoretic injections of biotinylated dextran amine in layer V of the primary motor cortex (M1). Twenty-eight singly labeled axons were reconstructed in 3D from serial sections. The M1 innervation of the subthalamic nucleus (STN) arises essentially from collaterals of long-ranged corticofugal axons en route to lower brainstem regions. Typically, after leaving M1, these large caliber axons (2-3 µm) enter the internal capsule and travel between caudate nucleus and putamen without providing any collateral to the striatum. More ventrally, they emit a thin collateral (0.5-1.5 µm) that runs lateromedially within the dorsal region of the STN, providing boutons en passant in the sensorimotor territory of the nucleus. In some cases, the medial tip of the collateral enters the lenticular fasciculus dorsally and yields a few beaded axonal branches in the zona incerta. In other cases, the collateral runs caudally and innervates the ventrolateral region of the red nucleus where large axon varicosities (up to 1.7 µm in diameter) are observed, many displaying perisomatic arrangements. Our ultrastructural analysis reveals a high synaptic incidence (141%) of cortical VGluT1-immunoreactive axon varicosities on distal dendrites of STN neurons, and on various afferent axons. Our single-axon reconstructions demonstrate that the so-called hyperdirect pathway derives essentially from collaterals of long-ranged corticofugal axons that are rarely exclusively devoted to the STN, as they also innervate the red nucleus and/or the zona incerta.
Keywords: Basal ganglia; Corticosubthalamic projection; Monkey; Primary motor cortex; Single-axon reconstruction; Subthalamic nucleus.