D-[3H]Aspartate retrograde labelling of callosal and association neurones of somatosensory areas I and II of cats

P. Barbaresi, M. Fabri, F. Conti, T. Manzoni

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Experiments were carried out on cats to ascertain whether corticortical neurones of somatosensory areas I (SI) and II (SII) could be labelled by retrograde axonal transport of D-[3H]aspartate (D-[3H]Asp). This tritiated enantiomer of the amino acid aspartate is (1) taken up selectively by axon terminals of neurones releasing aspartate and/or glutamate as excitatory neurotransmitter, (2) retrogradely transported and accumulated in perikarya, (3) not metabolized, and (4) visualized by autoradiography. A solution of D-[3H]Asp was injected in eight cats in the trunk and forelimb zones of SI (two cats) or in the forelimb zone of SII (six cats). In order to compare the labelling patterns obtained with D-[3H]Asp with those resulting after injection of a nonselective neuronal tracer, horseradish peroxidase (HRP) was delivered mixed with the radioactive tracer in seven of the eight cats. Furthermore, six additional animals received HRP injections in SI (three cats; trunk and forelimb zones) or SII (three cats; forelimb zone). D-[3H]Asp retrograde labelling of perikarya was absent from the ipsilateral thalamus of all cats injected with the radioactive tracer but a dense terminal plexus of anterogradely labelled corticothalamic fibres from SI and SII was observed, overlapping the distribution area of thalamocortical neurones retrogradely labelled with HRP from the same areas. D-[3H]Asp-labelled neurones were present in ipsilateral SII (SII-SI association neurones) in cats injected in SI. In these animals a bundle of radioactive fibres was observed in the rostral portion of the corpus callosum entering the contralateral hemisphere. There, neurones retrogradely labelled with silver grains were present in SI (SI-SI callosal neurones). Association and callosal neurones labelled from SI showed a topographical distribution similar to that of neurones retrogradely labelled with HRP. The laminar patterns of corticocortical neurones labelled with D-[3H]Asp or with HRP were also similar, with one exception. In the inner half of layer III, SII-SI association neurones of SI-SI callosal neurones labelled with the radioactive marker were much less numerous than those labelled with HRP. In cats injected in SII, D-[3H]Asp retrogradely labelled cells were present in ipsilateral SI (SI-SII association neurones). Their topographical and laminar distribution overlapped that of neurones labelled with HRP but, as in cats injected in SI, association neurones labelled with silver grains were unusually rare in the inner layer III. In spite of an intense D-[3H]Asp labelling of fibres observed in the corpus callosum, no neurones retrogradely labelled with D-[3H]Asp were found in the contralateral hemisphere. These results indicate that, except for the corticocortical neurones in the inner layer III, a large number of association and callosal neurones of SI and SII could be retrogradely labelled with D-[3H]Asp. These neurones therefore are supposed to use the amino acids aspartate and/or glutamate as an excitatory neurotransmitter.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)159-178
Number of pages20
JournalJournal of Comparative Neurology
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1987

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)


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