Distribution of cholinergic neurons in rat brain: demonstrated by the immunocytochemical localization of choline acetyltransferase

J Comp Neurol. 1983 May 1;216(1):53-68. doi: 10.1002/cne.902160106.


The neuroanatomical location and cytological features of cholinergic neurons in the rat brain were determined by the immunocytochemical localization of the biosynthetic enzyme, choline acetyltransferase (ChAT). Perikarya labeled with ChAT were detected in four major cell groups: (1) the striatum, (2) the magnocellular basal nucleus, (3) the pontine tegmentum, and (4) the cranial nerve motor nuclei. Labeled neurons in the striatum were observed scattered throughout the neostriatum (caudate, putamen) and associated areas (nucleus accumbens, olfactory tubercle). Larger ChAT-labeled neurons were seen in an extensive cell system which comprises the magnocellular basal nucleus. This more or less continuous set of neuronal clusters consists of labeled neurons in the nucleus of the diagonal band (horizontal and vertical limbs), the magnocellular preoptic nucleus, the substantia innominata, and the globus pallidus. Labeled neurons in the pontine tegmentum were seen as a group of large neurons in the caudal midbrain, dorsolateral to the most caudal part of the substantia nigra, and extended in a caudodorsal direction through the midbrain reticular formation into the area surrounding the superior cerebellar peduncle. The neurons in this latter group constitute the pedunculopontine tegmental nucleus (PPT). An additional cluster of cells was observed medially adjacent to the PPT, in the lateral part of the central gray matter at the rostral end of the fourth ventricle. This group corresponds to the laterodorsal tegmental nucleus. Large ChAT-labeled neurons were also observed in all somatic and visceral motor nerve nuclei. The correspondence of the distribution of ChAT-labeled neurons identified by our methods to earlier immunocytochemical and acetylcholinesterase histochemical studies and to connectional studies of these groups argues for the specificity of the ChAT antibody used.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain / cytology*
  • Brain Chemistry*
  • Brain Mapping
  • Choline O-Acetyltransferase / analysis*
  • Cranial Nerves / analysis
  • Immunoenzyme Techniques
  • Male
  • Neurons / cytology*
  • Parasympathetic Nervous System / cytology*
  • Pons / analysis
  • Rats / anatomy & histology*
  • Rats, Inbred Strains
  • Tegmentum Mesencephali / analysis
  • Tissue Distribution
  • Vestibular Nuclei / analysis


  • Choline O-Acetyltransferase