Ultrastructural features of dopamine axon terminals in the anteromedial and the suprarhinal cortex of adult rat

Brain Res. 1988 Feb 23;442(1):11-22. doi: 10.1016/0006-8993(88)91427-8.


The ultrastructural features and synaptic relationships of dopamine (DA) axon terminals were examined in the prefrontal cortex of adult rat after immunocytochemical staining with a highly specific polyclonal antiserum directed against DA-glutaraldehyde-lysyl-protein conjugate (donated by M. Geffard). Single and serial ultrathin sections were obtained from the deep layers of the anteromedial and the suprarhinal DA fields. The DA axon terminals from both regions averaged 0.7 micron in diameter, contained a mixed population of small, round and clear synaptic vesicles associated with a few larger dense-cored or fully immunostained vesicles, and frequently exhibited synaptic contacts which were exclusively made on dendritic shafts and spines. These synapses were mostly of the symmetrical type (80%) and were more often seen on dendritic shafts than spines, particularly in the suprarhinal (89%) compared with the anteromedial cortex (62%). As estimated either by stereological extrapolation from single sections or by direct observation in serial sections, the synaptic incidence of these DA varicosities was significantly greater in the anteromedial than suprarhinal DA field. In the longest series of thin sections, a junctional complex could be observed on 93% of the DA varicosities from the anteromedial cortex but only on 56% in the suprarhinal cortex. Such an inter-regional disparity in the relational characteristics of the DA input will need to be taken into account in elucidating the role and properties of this monoamine in cerebral cortex.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Axons / physiology
  • Axons / ultrastructure*
  • Dopamine / analysis
  • Dopamine / physiology*
  • Frontal Lobe / physiology
  • Frontal Lobe / ultrastructure*
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Male
  • Microscopy, Electron
  • Rats
  • Rats, Inbred Strains
  • Synapses / physiology
  • Synapses / ultrastructure*


  • Dopamine