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J Neurosci. 1987 Sep;7(9):2794-806.

Electrophysiologically identified nigral dopaminergic neurons intracellularly labeled with HRP: light-microscopic analysis.


Intracellular recordings were obtained in vivo from neurons of the rat substantia nigra, pars compacta. Neurons that were identified as dopaminergic by a variety of electrophysiological criteria, including antidromic activation from ipsilateral neostriatum or globus pallidus, were microiontophoretically injected with horseradish peroxidase and examined at the level of the light microscope. Dopaminergic neurons were of medium size and had ovoid, polygonal, or fusiform cell bodies that emitted from 3-6 primary dendrites. Much of the sparse and relatively unbranched dendritic arborization of these neurons remained within pars compacta, except for 1 or 2 large dendrites that were directed ventrally or ventrolaterally into pars reticulata, roughly perpendicular to the plane of the pars compacta. In coronal sections, the dendrites of ovoid- or polygonal-shaped pars compacta neurons were oriented mainly along the dorsoventral axis, whereas fusiform-shaped neurons had dendrites that were oriented primarily mediolaterally. Although some of the dendrites of dopaminergic neurons exhibited variations in diameter, most were not markedly varicose. Dendrites were sometimes sparsely invested with spinelike appendages or other dendritic extrusions, particularly along their distal portions. The axons of dopaminergic pars compacta neurons were emitted from primary or proximal secondary dendrites, and were extremely fine processes, 0.5 micron or less in diameter. No local axon collaterals were observed.

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