Autoradiographic localization of hormone‐concentrating cells in the brain of the female rhesus monkey

Donald W. Pfaff, John L. Gerlach, Bruce S. McEwen, Michel Ferin, Peter Carmel, Earl A. Zimmerman

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138 Scopus citations


With autoradiographic procedures, cells which bind 3H‐estradiol were found in preoptic, hypothalamic and limbic structures in the brains of ovariectomized, adult female rhesus monkeys. Estrogen‐binding cells were seen in the medial preoptic area, medial anterior hypothalamus, ventromedial nucleus, and especially heavy labelling was seen throughout the extent of the arcuate (infundibular) nucleus of the hypothalamus. In limbic structures, cells in the bed nucleus of the stria terminalis and in the medial nucleus of the amygdala were well labelled. Systematic charting also revealed smaller numbers of estrogen‐concentrating cells in other specific hypothalamic and limbic locations. In the anterior pituitary, significant numbers of basophils and acidophils were found to bind estrogen. Pars intermedia and the posterior lobe were virtually unlabelled. In the uterus, heavily labelled cells were seen in the endometrial stroma and in the myometrium. These autoradiographic findings agree with results of parallel biochemical experiments. In monkeys injected with 3H‐corticosterone, the most extensive high‐intensity binding found with autoradiography was in the hippocampus. Both pyramidal neurons and dentate gyrus granule cells were labelled. Biochemical experiments, also, showed highest cell nuclear accumulation of corticosterone in the hippocampus. Findings with estradiol in the rhesus monkey extend to primates conclusions based on autoradiographic experiments with steroid sex hormones in a wide variety of vertebrates, including fish, amphibians, birds, and various mammalian species (Morrell et al., '75a). All of these vertebrate forms have sex hormone‐concentrating neurons, which are found in specific preoptic, hypothalamic and limbic structures. In the species studied, such hormone‐concentrating neurons appear to be involved in the hormonal control of behavioral and pituitary function.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)279-293
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Comparative Neurology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Dec 1 1976
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Neuroscience


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