Selective in vivo fluorescence labelling of cholinergic neurons containing p75(NTR) in the rat basal forebrain

Brain Res. 1998 Oct 19;808(2):155-65. doi: 10.1016/s0006-8993(98)00792-6.


The cholinergic system of the rat basal forebrain is used as a model for the homologous region in humans which is highly susceptible to neuropathological alterations as in Alzheimer's disease. Cholinergic cells in the basal forebrain express the low-affinity neurotrophin receptor p75NTR. This has been utilized for selective immunolesioning of cholinergic neurons after internalization of an immunotoxin composed of anti-p75NTR and the ribosome-inactivating toxin saporin. However, the goal of many studies may be not the lesion, but the identification of cholinergic cells after other experimentally induced alterations in the basal forebrain. Therefore, a novel cholinergic marker was prepared by conjugating the monoclonal antibody 192IgG directed against p75NTR with the bright red fluorochrome carbocyanine 3 (Cy3). Three days after intraventricular injection of Cy3-192IgG the fluorescence microscopic analysis revealed a pattern of Cy3-labelled cells matching the distribution of cholinergic neurons. Apparently the marker was internalized within complexes of p75NTR and Cy3-192IgG which were then retrogradely transported to the cholinergic perikarya of the basal forebrain. In addition to the even labelling of somata, a strong punctate-like Cy3-immunofluorescence was seen in structures resembling lysosomes. The specificity of the in vivo staining was proven by subsequent immunolabelling of choline acetyltransferase (ChAT) with green fluorescent Cy2-tagged secondary antibodies. In the medial septum, the diagonal band and the nucleus basalis only cholinergic neurons were marked by Cy3-192IgG. In parallel experiments, digoxigenylated 192IgG was not detectable within cholinergic basal forebrain neurons after intraventricular injection. Presumably, this modified antibody could not be internalized. On the other hand, digoxigenylated 192IgG was found to be an excellent immunocytochemical marker for p75NTR as shown by double labelling including highly sensitive mouse antibodies directed against ChAT. Based on the present findings, future applications of the apparently non-toxic Cy3-192IgG and other antibodies for fluorescent in vivo and in vitro labelling are discussed.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antibodies, Monoclonal
  • Axonal Transport / physiology
  • Carbocyanines
  • Choline O-Acetyltransferase / analysis
  • Choline O-Acetyltransferase / immunology
  • Cholinergic Fibers / chemistry*
  • Cholinergic Fibers / enzymology
  • Fluorescent Antibody Technique
  • Immunoglobulin G
  • Microscopy, Fluorescence / methods
  • Prosencephalon / chemistry*
  • Prosencephalon / cytology*
  • Prosencephalon / enzymology
  • Protein Binding
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Rats, Wistar
  • Receptor, Nerve Growth Factor
  • Receptors, Nerve Growth Factor / analysis*
  • Receptors, Nerve Growth Factor / immunology


  • Antibodies, Monoclonal
  • Carbocyanines
  • Immunoglobulin G
  • Receptor, Nerve Growth Factor
  • Receptors, Nerve Growth Factor
  • Choline O-Acetyltransferase