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Brain Res. 1981 Aug 10;218(1-2):49-65.

Fine structure of the nigrostriatal anlage in fetal rat brain by immunocytochemical localization of tyrosine hydroxylase.


The developmental morphology and synaptic associations of neurons in the nigrostriatal anlage are examined by the electron microscopic immunocytochemical localization of tyrosine hydroxylase at embryonic (E) day 13.5 and 14.5 in rat brain. At E 13.5, immunoreactivity for the enzyme is localized throughout the cytoplasm of neuronal perikarya and processes including somatic, dendritic, and axonal growth cones. The cytoplasmic organelles in perikarya include primarily ribonucleic-protein particles, mitochondria and an immature Golgi apparatus. At E 14.5, the tyrosine hydroxylase labeled processes are detected in the lateral hypothalamus and ventrolateral caudate-putamen. The axonal processes showing immunoreactivity in the ventral mesencephalon and more rostral portions of the nigrostriatal bundle are frequently attached to unlabeled neurites by puncta adherentia. In the hypothalamus and caudate-putamen presumably transient synaptic junctions are also detected between the labeled axons and unlabeled neurons. The immature morphological features of neurons showing immunoreactivity for tyrosine hydroxylase thus indicate, that the biochemical differentiation of the nigrostriatal neurons precedes complete cytological differentiation.

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