Projections of the medial preoptic nucleus: a Phaseolus vulgaris leucoagglutinin anterograde tract-tracing study in the rat

J Comp Neurol. 1988 Apr 8;270(2):209-42. doi: 10.1002/cne.902700205.


The projections of the medial preoptic nucleus (MPN) were examined by making injections of the anterogradely transported lectin Phaseolus vulgaris leucoagglutinin (PHA-L) into the MPN and charting the distribution of labeled fibers. The evidence indicates that the MPN projects extensively to widely distributed regions in both the forebrain and brainstem, most of which also supply inputs to the nucleus. An important neuroendocrine role for the MPN is underscored by its extensive projections to almost all parts of the periventricular zone of the hypothalamus, including the anteroventral periventricular, anterior part of the periventricular, paraventricular (PVH), and arcuate nuclei, and a role in autonomic mechanisms is indicated by projections to such regions as the dorsal and lateral parvicellular parts of the PVH, the lateral parabrachial nucleus, and the nucleus of the solitary tract. Other projections of the MPN suggest participation in the initiation of specific motivated behaviors. For example, inputs to two nuclei of the medial zone of the hypothalamus, the ventromedial and dorsomedial nuclei, may be related to the control of reproductive and ingestive behaviors, respectively, although the possible functional significance of a strong projection to the ventral premammillary nucleus is presently unclear. The execution of these behaviors may involve activation of somatomotor regions via projections to the substantia innominata, zona incerta, ventral tegmental area, and pedunculopontine nucleus. Similarly, inputs to other regions that project directly to the spinal cord, such as the periaqueductal gray, the laterodorsal tegmental nucleus, certain medullary raphe nuclei, and the magnocellular reticular nucleus may also be involved in modulating somatic and/or autonomic reflexes. Finally, the MPN may influence a wide variety of physiological mechanisms and behaviors through its massive projections to areas like the ventral part of the lateral septal nucleus, the bed nucleus of the stria terminalis, the lateral hypothalamic area, the supramammillary nucleus, and the ventral tegmental area, all of which have extensive connections with regions along the medial forebrain bundle. Although the PHA-L method does not allow a clear demonstration of possible differential projections from each subdivision of the MPN, our results suggest that each of them does give rise to a unique pattern of outputs.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 400 WORDS)

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain Mapping / methods*
  • Female
  • Hypothalamus / anatomy & histology*
  • Male
  • Medial Forebrain Bundle / anatomy & histology*
  • Neural Pathways / anatomy & histology*
  • Phytohemagglutinins*
  • Preoptic Area / anatomy & histology*
  • Rats
  • Rats, Inbred Strains


  • Phytohemagglutinins
  • leukoagglutinins, plants