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J Comp Neurol. 2003 Nov 17;466(3):299-315.

Synaptic connections of cholinergic antennal lobe relay neurons innervating the lateral horn neuropile in the brain of Drosophila melanogaster.

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Neuroscience Institute, Life Sciences Centre, Dalhousie University, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada B3H 4J1.


Presumed cholinergic projection neurons (PNs) in the brain of the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster, immunoreactive to choline acetyltransferase (ChAT), convey olfactory information between the primary sensory antennal lobe neuropile and the mushroom body calyces, and finally terminate in the lateral horn (LH) neuropile. The texture and synaptic connections of ChAT PNs in the LH and, comparatively, in the smaller mushroom body calyces were investigated by immuno light and electron microscopy. The ChAT PN fibers of the massive inner antennocerebral tract (iACT) extend into all portions of the LH, distributing in a nonrandom fashion. Immunoreactive boutons accumulate in the lateral margins of the LH, whereas the more proximal LH exhibits less intense immunolabeling. Boutons with divergent presynaptic sites, unlabeled as well as ChAT-immunoreactive, appear to be the preponderant mode of synaptic input throughout the LH. Synapses of ChAT-labeled fibers appear predominantly as divergent synaptic boutons (diameters 1-3 microm), connected to unlabeled postsynaptic profiles, or alternatively as a minority of tiny postsynaptic spines (diameters 0.05-0.5 microm) among unlabeled profiles. Together these spines encircle unidentified presynaptic boutons of interneurons which occupy large areas of the LH. Thus, synaptic circuits in the LH differ profoundly from those of the PNs in the mushroom body calyx, where ChAT spines have not been encountered. Synaptic contacts between LH ChAT elements were not observed. The synaptic LH neuropile may serve as an output area for terminals of the ChAT PNs, their presynaptic boutons providing input to noncholinergic relay neurons. The significance of the postsynaptic neurites of the ChAT PNs is discussed; either local or other interneurons might connect the ChAT PNs within the LH, or PNs might receive inputs arising from outside the LH.

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