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J Comp Neurol. 2000 May 22;421(1):107-35.

Compartmental organization and chemical profile of dopaminergic and GABAergic neurons in the substantia nigra of the rat.

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Department of Anatomy Faculty of Medicine, University of La Laguna, La Laguna, Tenerife, Spain.


The substantia nigra (SN) is a midbrain center composed of dopaminergic (DA-) and gamma aminobutyric acid (GABA)ergic (GABA-) neurons. In this study, we investigated the topographical relationship between both cell populations and their chemical profile by using single and double immunostaining for tyrosine hydroxylase (TH), glutamic acid decarboxylase (GAD), cholecystokinin (CCK), calretinin (CR), calbindin (CB), parvalbumin (PV), and nitric oxide synthase (NOS). Our results showed that DA-cells are arranged in two bands, one rostrodorsal that corresponds to the SN pars compacta (SNC), and another caudoventral that corresponds to the SN pars reticulata (SNR) and emits cell bridges that make contact with the rostrodorsal one. In the SNR, GABA-cells are arranged in dorsoventrally elongated clusters that occupy DA-cell free regions. According to cytoarchitectural, topographical, and chemical criteria, we identified ten different cell groups: five dopaminergic ones, and five GABAergic ones. Within DA-cells, we found a cell group in the dorsomedial portion of the SNC which contains CCK, CR, and CB (dmSNC); DA-cells in the SN pars lateralis (SNL) which also contain CCK, CR and CB; DA-cells in the rostral half of the SNC containing CCK and CR (rSNC); DA-cells in the SNR and the caudal half of the SNC which only express CR (cSNC-SNR), and a DA-cell group in the lateral part of the SNC that contains none of the markers studied (lSNC). Within GABA-cells, we distinguished: large GABA-cells in the SNL that contain PV; large GABA-cells in the rostrolateral part of the SNR containing PV and NOS (rlSNR), small GABA-cells in the caudomedial part of the SNR containing PV (cmSNR), and two groups of small GABA-cells in the rostromedial portion of the SNR, one of them containing CR (rmcSNR), and the other containing NOS (rmnSNR). These data suggest that over a compartmental and complementary organization, DA- and GABA-nigral cells form a mosaic of neurochemically different subnuclei which probably differ in their physiological and pharmacological properties and vulnerability to aggression.

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