Distribution of tyrosine‐hydroxylase‐immunoreactive neurons in the hypothalamus of rats

Victoria Chan‐Palay, László Záborszky, Christer Köhler, Menek Goldstein, Sanford L. Palay

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The distribution and morphology of cells containing tyrosine hydroxylase (TH) immunoreactivity in the hypothalamus of rats were studied by using a modified immunoperoxidase technique. The TH cell system is more complexly organized than was previously thought. On the basis of their clustering patterns, hypothalamic TH neurons could be subdivided into two groups: dorsal and ventral. The ventral group consists of a prominent aggregate of cells located in the caudal part of the arcuate nucleus. From here, cells extend around the caudal part of the ventromedial and dorsomedial nuclei and the base of the diencephalon. Tyrosine hydroxylase‐positive cells are present throughout the arcuate nucleus, except in its ventromedial part. Anteriorly, immunoreactive cells appear in the suprachiasmatic and supraoptic nuclei, in the retrochiasmatic area, and in the ventral part of the anterior hypothalamic nucleus. The dorsal group has its main concentration of cells in the medial part of the zona incerta, from which two clusters of cells, one medial and one lateral, extend rostralward. The medial group comprises cells in the medial part of the dorsomedial, paraventricular, and anterior hypothalamic nuclei. These cells adjoin the periventricular cells. The lateral group of cells emanating from the zona incerta occupies the lateral part of the dorsomedial and anterior hypothalamic nuclei and the dorsal hypothalamic area. The dorsal and ventral TH cell groups are in continuity medially in the periventricular layer, and laterally through the cells that surround the ventromedial nucleus. Although the cells vary widely in size, shape, and dendritic arborization pattern, there are two main cell types. Small (21 × 11 μm), round to fusiform cells, with two or three dendrites arborizing simply, were frequently seen in the arcuate, suprachiasmatic, periventricular, supramammillary nuclei and at the borders of the ventromedial nucleus. The other cell type is larger (40 × 15 μm) and multipolar, with three to five frequently branching dendrites. The dendritic field is large and the cells are intensely TH‐immunoreactive. Although the larger cells occur occasionally in every hypothalamic nucleus, their principal locations are in the dorsal parts of the dorsomedial, posterior hypothalamic nuclei and the dorsal and lateral parts of the zona incerta, and in the areas dorsal and medial to the mammillothalamic tract at caudal hypothalamic levels. In this paper we give a detailed description of TH‐immunoreactive fibers and terminals in the hypothalamus and a comparison with previous studies of catecholamine cells in the hypothalamus.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)467-496
Number of pages30
JournalJournal of Comparative Neurology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Aug 20 1984
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Neuroscience(all)


  • Golgi‐like immunostaining
  • catecholamine


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