Cholinergic modulation of locus coeruleus (LC) neurons evokes a variety of neuronal and behavioural effects. In an attempt to understand the LC cholinergic circuit, several markers has been investigated and compared. (Immuno)-histochemical and autoradiographic methods have been used on rat, rabbit, and pig tissue. To identify the boundaries of the LC in each of these species, sections through the entire brainstem have been stained for tyrosine hydroxylase. The results that the pig does not possess a LC proper that conforms to the accepted features of this cell group. However, in this location fusiform cells reminiscent of LC interneurons are still present. This group of fusiform neurons has been named the nucleus angularis grisea periventricularis (NAGP). LC cells of the rat and rabbit show strong acetylcholinesterase (AChE) activity. In the pig the NAGP is markedly free from AChE staining. Muscarinic binding sites are densely distributed over the rabbit LC and adjacent region. The rat and rabbit LC neurons synthesise both muscarinic (mAChR) and nicotinic receptor protein (nAChR). In the pig NAGP region mAChR and nAChR positive cell bodies are almost absent, while some nAChR immunoreactive dendrites are present. The light microscopic data in the rabbit have been confirmed by electron microscopic analysis. It is concluded that the general concept of a noradrenergic LC that is present throughout mammals is questionable. At present, choline acetyltransferase immunoreactive terminals that closely correspond to the other cholinergic components in the rat or rabbit LC have not been observed. However, in these species the cholinergic sensitivity of LC cells is mediated via both muscarinic and nicotinic receptors on somata and dendrites.

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Microscopy Research and Technique
Department of Neuroscience

Caffé, A. (1994). Light microscopic distribution of some cholinergic markers in the rat and rabbit locus coeruleus and the nucleus angularis grisea periventricularis of the domestic pig (Sus scrofa): A correlative electron microscopic investigation of cholinergic receptor proteins in the rabbit. Microscopy Research and Technique, 29(3), 186–199. doi:10.1002/jemt.1070290303