Cholinergic systems in the rat brain: III. Projections from the pontomesencephalic tegmentum to the thalamus, tectum, basal ganglia, and basal forebrain

Brain Res Bull. 1986 May;16(5):603-37. doi: 10.1016/0361-9230(86)90134-6.


The ascending cholinergic projections of the pedunculopontine and dorsolateral tegmental nuclei, referred to collectively as the pontomesencephalotegmental (PMT) cholinergic complex, were investigated by use of fluorescent tracer histology in combination with choline-O-acetyltransferase (ChAT) immunohistochemistry and acetylcholinesterase (AChE) pharmacohistochemistry. Propidium iodide, true blue, or Evans blue was infused into the anterior, reticular, mediodorsal, central medial, and posterior nuclear areas of the thalamus; the habenula; lateral geniculate; superior colliculus; pretectal/parafascicular area; subthalamic nucleus; caudate-putamen complex; globus pallidus; entopeduncular nucleus; substantia nigra; medial septal nucleus/vertical limb of the diagonal band area; magnocellular preoptic/ventral pallidal area; and lateral hypothalamus. In some animals, separate injections of propidium iodide and true blue were made into two different regions in the same rat brain, usually a dorsal and a ventral target, in order to assess collateralization patterns. Retrogradely transported fluorescent labels and ChAT and/or AChE were analyzed microscopically on the same brain section. All of the above-delimited targets were found to receive cholinergic input from the PMT cholinergic complex, but some regions were preferentially innervated by either the pedunculopontine or dorsolateral tegmental nucleus. The former subdivision of the PMT cholinergic complex projected selectively to extrapyramidal structures and the superior colliculus, whereas the dorsolateral tegmental nucleus was observed to provide cholinergic input preferentially to anterior thalamic regions and rostral portions of the basal forebrain. The PMT cholinergic neurons showed a tendency to collateralize extensively.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Acetylcholine
  • Animals
  • Basal Ganglia / anatomy & histology
  • Brain Mapping*
  • Choline O-Acetyltransferase
  • Cholinergic Fibers / anatomy & histology*
  • Female
  • Fluorescent Dyes
  • Neural Pathways / anatomy & histology
  • Pons / anatomy & histology*
  • Rats
  • Rats, Inbred Strains
  • Superior Colliculi / anatomy & histology
  • Tegmentum Mesencephali / anatomy & histology*
  • Thalamus / anatomy & histology
  • Visual Pathways / anatomy & histology


  • Fluorescent Dyes
  • Choline O-Acetyltransferase
  • Acetylcholine