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Eur J Neurosci. 1996 Jul;8(7):1340-9.

The convergence of axon terminals from the mediodorsal thalamic nucleus and ventral tegmental area on pyramidal cells in layer V of the rat prelimbic cortex.

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Department of Anatomy, Toho University School of Medicine, 5-21-16 Ohmorinshi, Ohta-ku, Tokyo 143, Japan.


We investigated the ultrastructural basis of the synaptic convergence of afferent fibres from the mediodorsal thalamic nucleus (MD) and the ventral tegmental area (VTA) on the prefrontal cortical neurons of the rat by examining the synaptic relationships between thalamocortical or tegmentocortical terminals labelled with anterograde markers [lesion-induced degeneration or transport of wheat germ agglutinin conjugated to horseradish peroxidase (WGA-HRP)] and randomly selected unlabelled apical dendrites of layer V pyramidal cells in the prelimbic cortex. WGA-HRP-labelled terminals from the VTA ranged in diameter from 0.7 to 2.8 microm and established synaptic contacts with large dendritic profiles, i.e. proximal segments of apical dendritic shafts and spines from layer V pyramidal cells. Symmetrical synapses, i.e. inhibitory synapses, were more often seen than asymmetrical ones. Degenerating terminals from the MD formed asymmetrical synapses on dendritic spines or occasionally on small dendritic shafts of apical dendrites from layer V pyramidal cells, which received tegmentocortical synapses, mostly within layer III. Thalamocortical synapses were more distally distributed over common apical dendrites than tegmentocortical synapses, although some of them overlapped. The numerical density of direct synaptic inputs from the MD and VTA was low. These results suggest that fibres from the VTA exert their inhibitory effects directly on pyramidal cells in layer V via synaptic junctions with apical dendrites of these pyramidal cells, and that the tegmentocortical fibres are in an ideal anatomical position to modulate the reverberatory circuits between the MD and the prelimbic cortex.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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