Distribution of choline acetyltransferase immunoreactivity in the vestibular nuclei of normal and unilateral vestibular neurectomized cats

Eur J Neurosci. 1998 Oct;10(10):3115-26. doi: 10.1046/j.1460-9568.1998.00331.x.


Post-lesion recovery of vestibular functions is a suitable model for studying adult central nervous system plasticity. The vestibular nuclei complex (VN) plays a major role in the recovery process and neurochemical reorganizations have been described at this brainstem level. The cholinergic system should be involved because administration of cholinergic agonists and antagonists modify the recovery time course. This study was aimed at analysing the postlesion changes in choline acetyltransferase immunoreactivity (ChAT-Ir) in the VN of cats killed 1 week, 3 weeks or 1 year following unilateral vestibular neurectomy. ChAT-positive neurons and varicosities were immunohistochemically labelled and quantified (cell count and surface measurement, respectively) by means of an image analysing system. The spatial distribution of ChAT-Ir within the VN of control cats showed darkly stained neurons and varicosities mainly located in the caudal parts of the medial (MVN) and inferior (IVN) VN, the nucleus prepositus hypoglossi (PH) and, to a lesser extent, in the medial part of the superior vestibular nucleus (SVN). Lesion-induced changes consisted in a significant increase in both the number of ChAT-positive neurons (IVN, SVN) and the surface of ChAT-positive varicosities (IVN, SVN, PH). They were observed bilaterally in the acute (1 year and 3 weeks) and compensated (1 year) cats for the SVN and PH, while they persisted only in the IVN on the lesioned side in the compensated cats. These findings demonstrate vestibular lesion-induced reorganization of the cholinergic system in the IVN, SVN and PH which could contribute to postural and oculomotor function recovery.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cats
  • Choline O-Acetyltransferase / analysis*
  • Functional Laterality / physiology*
  • Image Enhancement
  • Immune Sera / metabolism
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Models, Neurological
  • Neurons / chemistry
  • Neurons / cytology
  • Organ Specificity
  • Time Factors
  • Vestibular Nerve* / surgery
  • Vestibular Nuclei / chemistry
  • Vestibular Nuclei / physiology*


  • Immune Sera
  • Choline O-Acetyltransferase