Distribution of dopamine beta-hydroxylase-like immunoreactive fibers within the shell subregion of the nucleus accumbens

Synapse. 1997 Nov;27(3):230-41. doi: 10.1002/(SICI)1098-2396(199711)27:3<230::AID-SYN8>3.0.CO;2-E.


The nucleus accumbens (Acb) can be divided into distinct subfields, delineated on the basis of histochemical markers as well as by afferent and efferent projection patterns. The shell subregion has reciprocal relationships with a variety of limbic areas and brainstem autonomic structures, and has been suggested to participate in motivation-related processes, including reward, stress, and arousal. The locus coeruleus (LC)-noradrenergic system has similarly been implicated in the modulation of behavioral state and stress-related processes, and previous studies have demonstrated reciprocal projections between the locus coeruleus and Acb shell. To better understand the anatomical substrate through which LC could influence activity within Acb shell, immunohistochemical methods were used to visualize the extent and the distribution of noradrenergic axons within this structure. Coronal sections of rat brain were processed to visualize immunoreactivity for the norepinephrine synthetic enzyme dopamine beta-hydroxylase (DBH), a specific marker for noradrenergic processes. In some cases, alternate sections were processed for immunohistochemical localization of substance P, in order to delineate core, shell, and pallidal compartments. Moderate-to-dense DBH-like immunoreactivity (DBHir) was found in approximately the caudal half of the shell subregion, particularly in caudalmost (septal pole) and ventral zones. The innervation of the septal pole was contiguous with a dense innervation of the bed nucleus of the stria terminalis. Few immunoreactive fibers were observed in the caudate-putamen, Acb core, or rostral Acb shell. Many DBHir fibers within the shell region were highly arborized with numerous varicosities, features indicative of terminal fields. These observations suggest noradrenergic systems might modulate certain processes associated with stress, behavioral state, or reinforcement via actions within the Acb shell.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Dopamine beta-Hydroxylase / metabolism*
  • Globus Pallidus / cytology
  • Globus Pallidus / enzymology
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Locus Coeruleus / cytology
  • Locus Coeruleus / enzymology
  • Male
  • Neostriatum / cytology
  • Neostriatum / enzymology
  • Nerve Fibers / enzymology*
  • Norepinephrine / physiology
  • Nucleus Accumbens / cytology*
  • Nucleus Accumbens / enzymology*
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Substance P / metabolism


  • Substance P
  • Dopamine beta-Hydroxylase
  • Norepinephrine