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J Comp Neurol. 2004 Jun 14;474(1):75-107.

Cholinergic elements in the zebrafish central nervous system: Histochemical and immunohistochemical analysis.

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Departamento de Biología Celular y Patología, Instituto de Neurociencias de Castilla y León, Universidad de Salamanca, E-37007 Salamanca, Spain.


Recently, the zebrafish has been extensively used for studying the development of the central nervous system (CNS). However, the zebrafish CNS has been poorly analyzed in the adult. The cholinergic/cholinoceptive system of the zebrafish CNS was analyzed by using choline acetyltransferase (ChAT) immunohistochemistry and acetylcholinesterase (AChE) histochemistry in the brain, retina, and spinal cord. AChE labeling was more abundant and more widely distributed than ChAT immunoreactivity. In the telencephalon, ChAT-immunoreactive (ChAT-ir) cells were absent, whereas AChE-positive neurons were observed in both the olfactory bulb and the telencephalic hemispheres. The diencephalon was the region with the lowest density of AChE-positive cells, mainly located in the pretectum, whereas ChAT-ir cells were exclusively located in the preoptic region. ChAT-ir cells were restricted to the periventricular stratum of the optic tectum, but AChE-positive neurons were observed throughout the whole extension of the lamination except in the marginal stratum. Although ChAT immunoreactivity was restricted to the rostral tegmental, oculomotor, and trochlear nuclei within the mesencephalic tegmentum, a widespread distribution of AChE reactivity was observed in this region. The isthmic region showed abundant AChE-positive and ChAT-ir cells in the isthmic, secondary gustatory and superior reticular nucleus and in the nucleus lateralis valvulae. ChAT immunoreactivity was absent in the cerebellum, although AChE staining was observed in Purkinje and granule cells. The medulla oblongata showed a widespread distribution of AChE-positive cells in all main subdivisions, including the octavolateral area, reticular formation, and motor nuclei of the cranial nerves. ChAT-ir elements in this area were restricted to the descending octaval nucleus, the octaval efferent nucleus and the motor nuclei of the cranial nerves. Additionally, spinal cord motoneurons appeared positive to both markers. Substantial differences in the ChAT and AChE distribution between zebrafish and other fish species were observed, which could be important because zebrafish is widely used as a genetic or developmental animal model.

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