Development of the rat septohippocampal projection: tracing with DiI and electron microscopy of identified growth cones

J Comp Neurol. 1993 Jun 1;332(1):69-88. doi: 10.1002/cne.903320106.


The factors determining the development of specific fiber tracts in the central nervous system as well as the interactions of growth cones with the surrounding micromilieu are largely unknown. Here we investigated the ontogenetic development of the septohippocampal projection in the rat with the lipophilic carbocyanine dye DiI which is transported anterogradely and retrogradely in neurons and can be applied to fixed embryonic tissue. Photoconversion of anterogradely labeled fibers allowed us to study individual growth cones by electron microscopy. The first axons originating from the septal complex were found in the hippocampus as early as on embryonic day (ED) 19, reaching the fimbrial pole of the hippocampus on ED 18. However, on ED 17 we consistently found retrogradely labeled cells in the hippocampus, indicating that the development of the hippocamposeptal projection precedes that of the septohippocampal projection. On ED 19, the majority of the axons directed toward the hippocampal formation passed the hippocampus and grew further into the subicular complex and entorhinal cortex. These axons gave off collaterals that invaded the hippocampus proper. A fairly adult pattern of the septohippocampal projection was reached on postnatal day 10, although may growth cones were still found. A comparative analysis of individual growth cones found in the fimbria and the hippocampus proper revealed no striking differences in their morphology. Electron microscopic analysis showed that growth cones in the fimbria were mainly contacted by other axons, whereas growth cones in the hippocampus had contact with all available elements. This may indicate that growing septohippocampal fibers are guided by axons of the earlier formed hippocamposeptal projection. In the hippocampus proper, other cues, probably derived from the target itself, may guide the septohippocampal axons to their appropriate target cells.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Afferent Pathways / ultrastructure
  • Animals
  • Animals, Newborn
  • Axonal Transport
  • Axons / ultrastructure
  • Carbocyanines / pharmacokinetics
  • Gestational Age
  • Hippocampus / anatomy & histology*
  • Hippocampus / embryology
  • Hippocampus / growth & development
  • Microscopy, Electron
  • Morphogenesis
  • Rats / anatomy & histology*
  • Rats / embryology
  • Rats / growth & development
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley / embryology
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley / growth & development
  • Septum Pellucidum / anatomy & histology*
  • Septum Pellucidum / embryology
  • Septum Pellucidum / growth & development


  • Carbocyanines
  • 3,3'-dioctadecylindocarbocyanine