We have examined the location of cholinergic and GABAergic neurons that project to the rat main olfactory bulb by combining choline acetyltransferase (ChAT) and glutamic acid decarboxylase (GAD) immunohistochemistry with retrograde fluorescent tracing. Since many of the projection neurons are located in subcortical basal forebrain structures, where the delineation of individual regions is difficult, particular care was taken to localize projection neurons with respect to such landmarks as the ventral pallidum (identified on the basis of GAD immunoreactivity), the diagonal band, and medial forebrain bundle. In addition, sections with fluorescent tracers or immunofluorescence were counterstained for Nissl substance in order to correlate tracer or immunopositive neurons with the cytoarchitecture of the basal forebrain. The majority of the cholinergic bulbopetal neurons are located in the medial half of the nucleus of the horizontal limb of the diagonal band (HDB), whereas only a few are located in its lateral half. A substantial number of cholinergic bulbopetal cells are also found in the sublenticular substantia innominata. A small number of cholinergic bulbopetal neurons, finally, are located in the ventrolateral portion of the nucleus of the vertical limb of the diagonal band. At the level of the crossing of the anterior commissure, approximately 17% of the bulbopetal neurons in the HDB are ChAT‐positive. The noncholinergic bulbopetal cells are located mainly in the lateral half of the HDB. GAD‐containing bulbopetal neurons are primarily located in the caudal part of the HDB, especially in its lateral part. About 30% of the bulbopetal projection neurons in the HDB are GAD‐positive. A few GAD‐positive bulbopetal cells, furthermore, are located in the ventral pallidum, anterior amygdaloid area, deep olfactory cortex, nucleus of the lateral olfactory tract, lateral hypothalamic area, and tuberomamillary nucleus. The topography of bulbopetal neurons was compared to other projection neurons in the HDB. After multiple injections of fluorescent tracer in the neocortex, retrogradely labeled neurons were concentrated in the most medial part of the HDB, while neurons projecting to the olfactory and entorhinal cortices were located in the ventral part of the HDB. These results show that the cells of the HDB can be divided into subpopulations based upon projection target as well as transmitter content. Furthermore, these subpopulations correspond, at least to a considerable extent, to areas that can be defined on cyto‐ and fibroarchitectural grounds.
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