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Innervation of ventricular and periventricular brain compartments

Leak, RK;Moore, RY;

Synaptic transmission is divided into two broad categories on the basis of the distance over which neurotransmitters travel. Wiring transmission is the release of transmitter into synaptic clefts in close apposition to receptors. Volume transmission is the release of transmitters or modulators over varying distances before interacting with receptors. One case of volume transmission over potentially long distances involves release into cerebrospinal fluid (CSF). The CSF contains neuroactive substances that affect brain function and range in size from small molecule transmitters to peptides and large proteins. CSF-contacting neurons are a well-known and universal feature of non-mammalian vertebrates, but only supra- and subependymal serotonergic plexuses are a commonly studied feature in mammals. The origin of most other neuroactive substances in CSF is unknown. In order to determine which brain regions communicate with CSF, we describe the distribution of retrograde neuronal labeling in the rat brain following ventricular injection of Cholera toxin, subunit (CT), a tracer frequently used in brain circuit analysis. Within 15 to 30 min following intraventricular injection, there is only diffuse, non-specific staining adjacent to the ventricular surface. Within 2 to 10 days, however, there is extensive labeling of neuronal perikarya in specific nuclear groups in the telencephalon, thalamus, hypothalamus and brainstem, many at a considerable distance from the ventricles. These observations support the view that ventricular CSF is a significant channel for volume transmission and identifies those brain regions most likely to be involved in this process.