Catecholaminergic systems in the zebrafish. II. Projection pathways and pattern of termination of the locus coeruleus

J Comp Neurol. 1994 Jun 8;344(2):256-69. doi: 10.1002/cne.903440207.


The locus coeruleus is a widely projecting isthmal noradrenergic nucleus. In the zebrafish, it consists of between three and ten neurons, most of which have multiple, bilaterally projecting axons. Immunohodological studies show that the locus coeruleus provides most, if not all, of the noradrenergic innervation of the brain rostral to the isthmus. The pathways and targets in the zebrafish are similar to ascending coeruleal projections of other vertebrates. Axons ascend through two main pathways: the longitudinal catecholamine bundle and the periventricular catecholamine pathway. The former is a dense meshwork of varicosity-bearing axons which ascends along the lateral longitudinal fasciculus into the mesencephalon. In the posterior tuberal area, this bundle dives ventrally and assumes a lateral position. In the diencephalon, it takes up a position ventral to the medial forebrain bundle, and follows this bundle into the telencephalon, where it joins the medial olfactory tract to enter the olfactory bulb. The periventricular catecholamine pathway is a diffuse pathway consisting of thick, smooth axons. It is associated with the medial longitudinal fasciculus. Rostral to the nucleus of the medial longitudinal fasciculus, this pathway joins the longitudinal catecholamine bundle around the medial forebrain bundle. The periventricular pathway gives rise to coarse terminal arbors with large but sparse varicosities, whereas the longitudinal catecholamine bundle gives rise to terminal plexuses with fine and dense fibers and varicosities. Among the more densely innervated regions are the raphé nucleus, the interpeduncular nucleus, the torus semicircularis, parts of the hypothalamus, and the suprachiasmatic and preoptic areas. The torus longitudinalis, optic tectum, cerebellum, habenular complex, the dorsomedial zone of area dorsalis telencephali, and the olfactory bulb are moderately innervated. The nucleus glomerulosus, the torus lateralis and lateral subnuclei of the nucleus diffusus, and the anterior tuberal nucleus are devoid of noradrenergic innervation.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain / physiology
  • Catecholamines / metabolism*
  • Efferent Pathways / physiology
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Locus Coeruleus / physiology*
  • Nerve Endings / physiology*
  • Neural Pathways / physiology
  • Synaptic Transmission*
  • Zebrafish / metabolism
  • Zebrafish / physiology*


  • Catecholamines