An aromatase-associated cytoplasmic inclusion, the "stigmoid body," in the rat brain: II. Ultrastructure (with a review of its history and nomenclature)

J Comp Neurol. 1993 Mar 1;329(1):1-19. doi: 10.1002/cne.903290102.


The ultrastructure of aromatase-associated "stigmoid (dot-like) structures," which were detected in a previous study using light-microscopic immunohistochemistry (Shinoda et al.: J. Comp. Neurol. 322:360-376, '92), were examined in the rat medial preoptic region, bed nucleus of the stria terminalis, medial amygdaloid nucleus, and arcuate nucleus by pre- and post-embedding marking with a polyclonal antibody against human placental antigen X-P2 (hPAX-P2) for immuno-electron microscopic analysis. The immunoreactive stigmoid structure was identified as a distinct, non-membrane-bounded cytoplasmic inclusion (approximately 1-3 microns in diameter), which has a granulo-fuzzy texture with moderate-to-low electron density in non-immunostained preparations. It consists of at least four distinct granular and three distinct fibrillo-tubular elements forming a granulo-fibrillar conglomerate. This type of inclusions was formally termed the "stigmoid body" under the electron microscope. The stigmoid body is composed of the outer granulo-fibrillar and inner hyaloplasmic compartments. The immunoreactivity for hPAX-P2 is mainly localized to the former, especially to the low density granulo-fuzzy materials associated with the fibrillo-tubular elements. Identification of the ultrastructure of stigmoid body clarified their prevalence not only in the limbic and hypothalamic regions, but also in sex-steroid-sensitive peripheral tissues (e.g., peripheral sensory ganglia, ovary, testis) by consulting earlier electron-microscopic studies. Reviewing the history and nomenclature of this inclusion body, we reorganized the terminology of related neuronal cytoplasmic inclusions, the terms of which have often been confused, and discussed its functional significance on the basis of the present and previously accumulated data. In conclusion, we emphasized the importance of the stigmoid bodies in the sex-steroid-sensitive neural system because of their large size, high frequency, specific distribution in brains and peripheral tissues, effects of sex-steroids, and immunological and histochemical characteristics of the antibody marking the inclusion. The stigmoid bodies may provide a subcellular site for sex-steroid metabolism in their target tissues and play a critical role in cytosolic modulation of their actions (e.g., by aromatization) prior to their receptor binding.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Amygdala / enzymology
  • Amygdala / ultrastructure*
  • Animals
  • Arcuate Nucleus of Hypothalamus / enzymology
  • Arcuate Nucleus of Hypothalamus / ultrastructure*
  • Aromatase / analysis*
  • Brain Chemistry*
  • Cytoplasmic Granules / ultrastructure
  • Female
  • Gonadal Steroid Hormones / metabolism*
  • Immunoenzyme Techniques
  • Inclusion Bodies / enzymology*
  • Inclusion Bodies / physiology
  • Male
  • Microscopy, Immunoelectron
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins / analysis*
  • Organ Specificity
  • Preoptic Area / enzymology
  • Preoptic Area / ultrastructure*
  • Rats / anatomy & histology*
  • Rats, Wistar / anatomy & histology
  • Terminology as Topic


  • Gonadal Steroid Hormones
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins
  • Aromatase