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Microsc Res Tech. 1992 Dec 1;23(4):306-23.

Application of the Golgi/electron microscopy technique for cell identification in immunocytochemical, retrograde labeling, and developmental studies of hippocampal neurons.

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Institute of Anatomy, University of Freiburg, Federal Republic of Germany.


In this study the Golgi/electron microscopy (EM) technique has been used for an analysis of the fine structure, specific synaptic connections, and differentiation of neurons in the hippocampus and fascia dentata of rodents. In a first series of experiments the specific synaptic contacts formed between cholinergic terminals and identified hippocampal neurons were studied. By means of a variant of the section Golgi impregnation procedure, Vibratome sections immunostained for choline acetyltransferase, the acetylcholine-synthesizing enzyme, were Golgi-impregnated in order to identify the target neurons of cholinergic terminals in the hippocampus. It could be shown with this combined approach that cholinergic septohippocampal fibers form a variety of synapses with different target structures of the Golgi-impregnated and gold-toned hippocampal neurons. In this report cholinergic synapses on the heads of small spines, the necks of large complex spines, dendritic shafts, and cell bodies of identified dentate granule cells are described. The variety of cholinergic synapses suggests that cholinergic transmission in the fascia dentata is a complex event. Next, the Golgi/EM technique was applied to Vibratome sections that contained retrogradely labeled neurons in the hilar region of the fascia dentata following horseradish peroxidase (HRP) injection into the contralateral hippocampus. With this combined approach some of the hilar cells projecting to the contralateral side were identified as mossy cells by the presence of retrogradely transported HRP in thin sections through these Golgi-impregnated and gold-toned neurons. Our findings suggest that the mossy cells are part of the commissural/associational system terminating in the inner molecular layer of the fascia dentata. They are mainly driven by hilar collaterals of granule cell axons that form giant synapses on their dendrites. Finally, the Golgi/EM procedure was used to study the differentiation and developmental plasticity of hippocampal and dentate neurons in transplants and slice cultures of hippocampus. Under both experimental conditions, the differentiating neurons are deprived of their normal laminated afferent innervation but develop their major cell-specific characteristics including a large number of postsynaptic structures (spines). As revealed in thin sections of gold-toned identified cells, all these spines formed synapses with presynaptic boutons suggesting sprouting of the transplanted and cultured neurons, respectively. Altogether, the present report demonstrates the usefulness of the Golgi/EM technique, particularly of the section impregnation procedure, for a variety of studies requiring the identification of individual neurons at the ultrastructural level.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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